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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The impact of taking kids outside with D2D

Scouts-2010 048gerri fitzloff (1).jpgI want to take the opportunity in this final D2D eZine to praise all of the hard work done by our adult leaders. It is hard work leading one of these groups - there is group dynamics to navigate, science to teach, and encounters with questions you may not know the answers to. It's a challenge you've all risen to! This program not only cultivates a love and aspiration for science, but it fosters a love and appreciation for nature as well. As adult leaders you are both the facilitators and front seat spectators to all of that.

There is a LOT of competition with nature these days: technology (computers, video games, TV); more buildings, cars and roads; fear of strangers; parental attitude; fear of pests. The list could go on forever. For kids, boundaries are smaller, and the freedom to roam is diminished.

People have always had a fear of the unknown, and throughout history nature has often been included in that. The difference now is that collectively as a society, we know more about what's out in nature, but when we get down to the individual level the understanding isn't always there.

During my time as a naturalist and informal educator I observed fear of pests (among other things) first hand. I will never forget the mother who asked me if her children "could catch ticks" from being in the long grass where we were building our fort (having fun!). When I told her it was possible, but not likely as ticks were long past their peak, she immediately wanted to take her kids home and away from the fun they were having. I did not mention to her that it was also possible to "catch ticks" in her backyard...

I do not discount the fears and worries of parents - our world is a dangerous place! Or, at least it can be. One of the great things about D2D is that it gives youth some knowledge and the tools they need to navigate through a number of those fears and dangers in a way that empowers them, instead of doing all the work for them. In my opinion, spending time in nature is a huge part of the way humans learn. It is a way for children to gain confidence, build coordination skills, test the physical capabilities of their own boundaries, and learn what is acceptable socially.

It has been so wonderful watching all of this happening through your stories with the youth from D2D. One of my greatest pleasures in working with this project is seeing the impact it has had on all of our youth participants. The investigations youth do may be directed by them (with guidance, of course), but their passion was sparked by all of our wonderful adult leaders. And I know that many of these youth will grow up with a much larger appreciation for more than just birds or monarchs.

All of their experiences are in no small way thanks to all of you. They will remember what they did with you, their leaders, for the rest of their lives. I have no doubt that when they are older if they are ever asked "How did you know you wanted to do ____?" the answer will lead back to the season(s) they spent with you learning to identify birds and caterpillar instars, the investigations they developed, and the connections they made with their fellow youth, to science, and to nature.

So I and the rest of the D2D team would like to say THANK YOU to all of the adult leaders, past and present, for helping to create these experiences for children.

Katie-Lyn Bunney
Monarchs in the Classroom coordinator
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