Monday, 28 January 2013
I love telling stories. Most favourite one is why I started Nature's Backpack, because back then, I was a teacher assistant by day and make-up artist by night and on weekends. Both jobs I really enjoyed and thought I was living my passion.
It wasn't until I took the nursery school children to a local conservation area when I realized that a bigger purpose was waiting for me.
Nature has always been important, and I understood that we, as humans, are part of the whole circle of life. Having a background and education in environmental sciences gave me the foundation and understanding of ecology and the benefit nature has in our lives.
I knew that people were not going outside as much, but I didn't fully appreciate this until that day.
As we were waiting for everyone to arrive, the children were sitting on a bench while the parents were chatting in the hall. That is when I heard it.... a piercing scream from a little girl. When I turned around, I saw that she was swatting a fly... a common housefly and screaming "It's going to bite me!"
It didn't stop there. When we walked outside with our nature interpreter (whom I worked with in the past many times) took us to the nearby pond. A frog leaped out in-front of us and I was expecting the children to run and try to catch it... one child tried, but the parent quickly squashed the curiosity and told the child not to touch it.
The rest of the time, I was keen to hear how this outing was going to go and was shocked. Shocked at the fear and the misunderstanding of nature these people had. When I went home that day, I went on the internet and found Richard Louv, who wrote the book "Last Child in the Woods". He called this disconnection Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). I bought his book and read it through, shaking my head in agreement throughout.
I felt I had to do something... even if it was small. And I did just that. I started a free family hike and called it Nature's Backpack. The goal was to get people out into nature with a guide, model free curiosity and play outdoors and hopefully inspire families to go outside on their own and explore nature.
Through feedback from families and further research in nature connection, I wanted to take Nature's Backpack further. Connection to nature is powerful and through nature children will develop confidence, a sense of place, ownership of their surroundings, connection and love for nature and all living things, compassion, a sense of self, not to mention the physical attributes of being active outside. Studies show that when people spend time outdoors, they are more creative, focused, less stressed, happier, grounded, and calmer. If you are interested in this research, visit Children and Nature Network.
Starting with our children, mentoring them to learn through their own passion to learn, to be curious about that frog, plant, tree or animal, to ask questions and to put your best guess forward. To bring out the gifts within each child and nurture it. In doing so, guide them into knowing who they truly are and where their place is in the world.
Nature's Backpack is more than a program for children, it is a life long journey from birth to teens that guides and nurtures our children to build better communities and culture. It is about regenerating our culture, and building in the attributes of well rounded adults connected to their surroundings.
It is my passion and mission in life and one I do everyday through learning more skills and knowledge to pass along to the future generation.
It is the why behind Nature's Backpack and I do hope to see you on one of the hikes, programs or hear about how this has inspired you to do something similar.
Nature's Backpack has new programs coming in April, Oaks and Acorns (birth to 3), Wild Things (after school program 5-9), Chicks in the Sticks (girls club 9-14) and our popular program Young Explorers (3-5)