Kids and nature, our future looks bright
At first, Abel was more interested in the dog than the prairie. Caleb didn’t always feel like hiking. And Jenna? She wasn’t crazy about stepping into the mud and water.
But by the end of the week, all they could talk about was how much fun they had. And that was the whole point.
Our goal was to foster a lasting love of nature by getting kids outside to have fun.
Kids need nature:
Experts tell us that playing in nature at a young age is one of the best ways for kids to forge a connection to nature, a connection that will provide lifelong benefits and hopefully motivate them to take care of all we are trying to protect today.
Thanks to the parents and our supporters, we were able to host our first Driftless Explorers Club, a program for kids aged six to eleven to get outside to play and explore.
The location was perfect for igniting the imaginations of kids: It had everything — towering pines, huge oak trees, prairie, stream, ponds, and rock outcrops.
Steve Thompson, a board member of DALC who had conserved his land several years ago, volunteered to let us use his property. He wanted to help ensure that more kids are able to enjoy the outdoors, like he did when he was little.
With the help of UW-Extension agent Paul Ohlrogge, we spent the week exploring nature, sharing stories and creating crafts to foster a sense of wonder and joy.
“These are a few of my favorite things…”
When we asked the kids what their favorite thing was about the week, there were a variety of answers. Some liked active things like games and climbing on rocks, while others best enjoyed crafts or creative projects.
But the clear winner of the week was the pond.
Nets in hand, it wasn’t long before kids were marching into the water to look for frogs and bugs. And they found lots of them! We saw the entire life cycle of frogs, from eggs through tadpoles, froglings, and adult frogs.
We saw snails, dragonfly and damselfly larvae, and even a giant water bug with eggs on his (yes his) back. The afternoon was full of sounds of splashing water and cries of “Look what I found!” or “this is a huge tadpole!”.
Conservationists in the making:
Some of the simple moments stand out the most for us, such as showing a few kids how to make a basket out of burdock burs, and finding a small yellow crab spider inside when we were done, until it scurried away.
Or simply watching them run and laugh during a game of tag, with lovely pines and rocks in the background. The generosity of each child, the respect they have for living things and the magic of nature, was amazing. They give us hope for conservation over the coming generations.
It makes us realize the power of kids and adults playing together in nature. It’s not just about connecting kids to nature, it’s also about connecting to the kids you are with. This summer, the kids of the Driftless Explorers Club helped us all remember that.
A special thank you too, to our supporters, the Antonia Foundation and the Alliant Energy Foundation for making this possible.
We’d also like to thank our volunteers Alice Godfrey and Paul Ohlrogge for ensuring the days were successful, and Steve and Mary Thompson (and dog Gus and the cats) for being such wonderful and generous hosts.
PS- Check out our Facebook page for more photos.