Monday, 4 June 2012

Experiencing the Edge

The other week, I had the opportunity to speak with some inner city parents of 3-6 year olds. I was asked to come in and talk about the benefits of getting outside into nature with your young ones and connecting them to nature.

I usually have an idea on what I want to talk about, but I always keep it open to change as to what I feel the audience may need to hear.

When I asked this group about their experiences, I was humbled in the fact that not everyone had an upbringing experience as I did. That these parents for the most part, grew up in the concrete jungle of our inner cities. And because of that, their childhood did not include a lot of nature.

This was exciting for me, because here was a group of adults who wanted to offer opportunities for their children out in nature, instead of inside, but did not know how to go about it. One parent even went as far to say that she was very UNCOMFORTABLE in nature. Wow! This experience I was about to take her on was out of her comfort zone, it was her edge. And with her permission, I asked if she would trust me to keep her and her young children safe when we went on a hike later. She wasn't enthusiastic about it at first, and I decided to offer her time to listen to what I have to say and think about it. Then when it became time, go from there.

So I continued with my talk. The benefits of connecting to nature with your child because as you do so, you are also connecting personally with your child. You are building a strong foundation of trust, love and emotional bonding. That through play out in nature, in a child-like manner, these interrelated connections occur.

I gave examples and a story... of course I told a story, that is how I usually bring home the message... in a true story. The example I gave was of our dad and son rolling down a hill. I love that story, it has such a powerful impact on me and I hoped it did on the parents as well. Click on the story.

When it came time to gather the children and make our way out onto the hike. This parent was still uncomfortable with going out. And it wasn't a big nature hike, it was a wooded lot, gravel trail we would be following. She started to tell me about the "bug" fear her children had. So I suggested she watch me on how I interact with the children and together we will explore the trail.

When we got outside, I established some safety rules and we were off. At first the kids were all over the place, not really knowing what to do and where to go. Then after 10 feet onto the trail, one little girl found a snail shell. She handed it to me and as I was questioning her, the snail began to come out of its shell. I held it upside down at first so we could see its foot grow out of the shell, then one of the antennas. By this time all the children had gathered around my hand to watch this snail come out of its shell. I start to ask more questions, 'what is it?, what do you think it is doing? What part is coming out, why is it coming out? Why was it in its shell? Touch it? Would you like to have it crawl on you?" etc etc. We spent 30 minutes watching this snail, each one that felt comfortable letting it crawl on their hand, feeling the coolness of its body as it slid aver the hand.

And where do you think the children of that parent who was uncomfortable with nature were? Right beside me, holding the snail and having it crawl on them. No fear of 'bugs' at all. A perceived fear that really came from the parent. An ah-ha moment for the mom.

The kids were hooked, I then had a crowd that followed me everywhere as we investigated the spit on plants, to find out that inside that spit, was a spittle bug.  That insects have 6 legs and talk about the difference between bees and wasps and should we be afraid of them. Demystifying the insect world and eliminating some misplaced fears.

At the end, we had a coyote hunt with the kids, with me being the coyote and they being the rabbits. Yep, I caught one. All the while the parent that was uncomfortable out in nature commented to another "I am still a little uncomfortable out here, but I am here doing it! And look at my kids, They are all caught up in Rhonda's enthusiasm... and I got caught up in it too! I would like to bring her out with me more often."

I was honoured to bring this parent to her comfort in nature edge and show her that although there are some things to be aware of out in nature, if you respect and learn of what is out there, it isn't such a big scary place, but a place to build connections to nature, your children and to yourself.

If you are like the parent in this story, feel free to come along on one of my guided hikes, or even contact me for a hike, I always look for an excuse to go out into nature.

Until next time....

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