While I do plenty of traditional land stewardship activities on our property – like prescribed fire, habitat restoration, and invasive species control – I try to also make connections with the broader community. Sometimes that means taking the show on the road, and sometimes it means hosting.
Last month, we had the privilege of hosting a group of kids from the Plymouth Parks Department summer camp program. We set them lose on the flower-filled grounds of Moontree Studios.
I love working with kids (as long as chaperones are present!). The wonder and joy of exploring creation is still right at the surface and doesn’t take much (if any) coaxing.
Our first activity was giving them a blank sheet of paper on a clipboard and asking them to pretend they were pollinators in search of flowers. Did we have enough flowers on the landscape? Were their different shapes and colors? Pretend you’re a bee… now buzz off!
With such an open command, each child’s individuality came through. Some drew flowers in a single color, focusing on form. Others wanted more true-to-life shades. Some counted the flower species up exactly. Others just got distracted by a cool bug.
Next, we gave them a strip of duct tape that we put around their wrist as a bracelet, sticky side out. Find a flower petal or two, and make a pretty bracelet. They didn’t take much prodding.
As I was drifting from group to group, I would briefly engage with kids and look at the plants with them. I spotted a spittle bug (watch this great video!), and I showed them how this little creature makes a bubble-bath home to protect himself from predators.
The best part came 10 minutes later, when one boy found a spittle bug all on his own.
This and many other wonders were known to so many kids of the Boomer generation, who grew up in close contact with wild spaces. Many of these spaces are gone, along with the footpaths, kids bicycles, and play forts.
At its most basic, it doesn’t take a lot of complicated planning to connect kids to nature, it just takes our commitment and prioritization. With as much as we know about child development and natural communities, we should see their right to explore and connect on par with the need for education, nutrition, and healthcare.