I attended the 2010 Nature Summit which was intended to allow “educators to immerse themselves in nature and rediscover their own sense of wonder”.
What were some of my childhood nature experiences? I remember the first time I saw a mountain – our family spent 13 months in Germany when I was 7/8 years old. The plane had not even touched down and I was already shaking with excitement at the prospect of being able to climb a mountain.
We lived in a small town near Baden Baden. There was only one other English speaking family in town. It was not uncommon to see herds of sheep being driven through town on their way to another pasture. I could walk to the end of my street and enter a magical forest and explore for hours on end – alone.
When we returned to Canada I spent the remainder of my childhood living in the city but there was a large section of undeveloped land just minutes from our house. It was here in this urban forest that I spent all my spare time. Sometimes with a friend or two but most often alone I hiked, explored, imagined and wondered.
When I couldn’t be in the woods I was digging in my yard trying to grow miscellaneous plants or create habitats for real or imaginary creatures. My bedroom was a “jungle’ full of plants, an aquarium and miscellaneous other pets.
I spent summers at my aunt’s farm or camping with my family – always exploring independently. I went to summer camp but found this experience to be oppressive at times – far too structured for my liking. I longed to abandon the team sports and just go explore. The forest is where I belong.
I’m not “uncomfortable leaving the indoors.” I don’t “keep children indoors because of inclement weather”. I love spending time outdoors. I already include a wide variety of nature experiences for the children in my care. Essentially I didn’t need to attend the Summit so why did I go?
I went to have fun. I went to spend time with colleagues and share nature experiences with them. I went to participate, to explore and to remember.
Children today don’t often have the opportunity to experience nature the way I did. The Nature Summit allowed me to connect with other educators and discuss how we can overcome obstacles and provide meaningful nature experiences for the children we care for. We didn’t sit around tables in a conference room or listen to lectures. We had discussions around the campfire. We played in the dirt and got wet in the rain. We experienced nature.