Archive for 'Nature'

Children in Nature

I’ve always thought that parenting outdoors was way easier than parenting indoors. There’s more room, there’s more tolerance for loudness and rambunctiousness and space to run and climb and play and space for all members of the family to have the space they need to dream, explore, rest, run, and create. It almost inevitably brings our family to its best self. Even times when we enter cranky, we come out feeling recharged and a little nicer too.

In our house we are lucky to have a little bit of nature in our own backyard and to have access to so many amazing natural places just outside our gate.

But not all kids or families have the same access to the outdoors. Or the same faith that nature is a good place to be.

The Children and Nature Network is a national organization started by Richard Louv and prompted by his book Last Child in the Woods.  The organization emphasizes the importance of nature in the lives of children. It works hard to offer families and communities access to the outdoors and to make nature a part of children’s education.

There are branches of this network all over the country and here in Austin we are lucky to have a very active branch; The Children in Nature Collaborative which is a collaboration of organizations in Austin working hard to expose kids to nature. This organization provides education, tools, ideas,  inspiration and a great website to help clubs, communities and families all over Austin to GET OUTSIDE and play.  (On it you can even do a search for the nature nearest you!)

This time of year the Collaboration pays tribute to the folks who are working hard to expose kids to nature – kids who might otherwise have no connection to it all. Kids who are learning how to be future stewards for our earth while also learning some very amazing things about their own abilities.

The Celebration of Children in Nature, on Thursday, September 20th, held at the most amazing Four Seasons Hotel on Ladybird Lake is a night of great tribute and beauty and  is one of my favorite events of the  year!  It is lovely and inspiring and is always so incredibly decorated to truly match its mission.  (butterfly pupa as the centerpiece? That you can then take home and watch hatch in your very own yard? are you kidding me??!!)

This year’s award winners are: Camp Fire USA Balcones chapter, Candlelight Ranch, Explore Austin and Perez Elementary School – all of whom are doing incredible work to help families and kids discover nature and thereby discover themselves.

If you’d like to attend this gorgeous event on Ladybird Lake, or provide sponsorship and help support this amazing collaboration, and cheer on the award winners who are literally changing the face of childhood, not to mention the face of our earth for years to come, you can contact Westcave preserve via email or call 830-825-3442.

Or, if you’d just like to find out more about ways that folks are working to help get kids outside, or discover ways to get out there yourself, visit Nature Rocks Austin.

Now go outside and play!

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Go Outside and Play

I had the privilege this morning of speaking with Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife. We spoke about ways to encourage families to get outside and ways too to help them figure out what to do once they’re out there. We talked about sharing stories of families experiencing nature and the realization too that nature can be as simple as a lone tree growing up through a sidewalk or as expansive as a 15,000 acre wilderness preserve. It’s the idea of building connection that counts. And it’s a conversation I hope to continue with him and others too.

My first introduction to Carter was through an editorial he had in the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine about children and nature and Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. He wrote with a sincere  sentimentality mixed with a professional dictate about the importance of exposing kids to nature – not just for the children’s sake but for the sake of our natural world as well. If kids feel connected now, the greater chance they’ll have of serving as stewards for the environment down the road.

Carter is speaking tomorrow night at the Celebration of Children in Nature awards banquet at the Four Seasons Hotel here in Austin. It’s organized  by Westcave preserve which does a lot of amazing work with kids and nature. It’s a lovely event with a banquet on the lawn, and a chance to listen and discuss the whys and ways of getting kids and families to experience and explore the outdoors.  If you are at all interested in ways you can encourage children and nature, or if you just want a chance to attend an amazing event and listen to some good talks in a beautiful locale, tickets can be purchased through West Cave preserve.

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Our very urban East Bouldin Creek

We are lucky here in Austin to have our urbanness intermingle so effortlessly with the creeks and parks and other outdoor spaces. The recent rains have made the very urban creeks feel like a veritable wilderness – oftentimes running right under the city’s streets. As a family we spend a lot of time outdoors and I truly feel our most connected times are those times we spend in nature – no distractions, creative exploration and even a chance for a sun drenched nap on occasion.

How does your family connect to nature?

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More and more I realize that presence is what it’s all about when it comes to family life. It is my constant pursuit and I admit I’m not always that good at it. But when I achieve it I am more patient, understanding and connected too. Partly my lack of presence is based on the fact that there are 6 of us in the house which is a bit distracting at best. Partly it’s that I work for myself, which means that there is always something to be done. And partly it’s just because I don’t always make the right choice when it comes to the phone or the computer or what have you – (which only sometimes can be traced back to the fact that I work for myself.) But partly too it can be changed. By choice.

lucy in the tree resized

I found total presence this past weekend in a campout we took with friends. And it’s presence I want to bring with me into my daily life.

During the four days we were in the field, we had no cell phone signal. None. At. All. Which meant for me that not only did I not have the buzzing phone in my pocket, I never even knew what time it was. After the first couple times I looked at the phone for the time and remembered it was off, I finally and delightfully tossed the phone into the bottom of the knapsack, not to be dug out again until we were back at home. To have that many adults all together in a field along a river with all our kids and nobody’s time or nap or conversation or marshmallow cooking or hiking or fire sitting or singing interrupted by a ringing phone – answered or unanswered – was pure and total presence at it’s very best. It was so pure it was almost startling and it made me realize I want more of that.

And i can create it. I’m going to turn it off a little more than I currently do. I’m going to mute its ring and let the voice mail do my work for me. I’m going to start with evenings at home and maybe most weekends as well. I am certain, after this weekend especially, that it will do the trick for helping me in my constant pursuit of presence. Once I realize how few calls I get in a day, or a week even, that are emergency status, I think it’ll be easy to pursue.

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Cancel that appointment

An article I found on the Children and Nature Network’s website talks about the overscheduling of kids. It’s a question asked regularly by parents, “am I doing enough?” Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves instead, “are we doing too much?”

After you read this, cancel that appointment and get to the greenbelt instead.

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