Kids’ nature program an example of what’s possible

With more of our children’s time being spent staring at screens, there is a movement that is trying to bring attention back to the basics.

The event “Sharing Nature With Kids” took place Friday evening at the Lakenenland Sculpture Park along M-28 in Harvey. The Marquette-Alger Great Start Collaborative invited children and their parents to join in for nature-based activities and to receive a free copy of the book, “Sharing Nature: Nature Awareness Activities” by Joseph Cornell, which details nature-games for children and adults. Angela Johnson, locally-based director of the Great Start Collaborative, led attendees through four activities from the book.

“This event is about giving parents new ideas about how to engage kids with nature. Also, it gets parents to be engaged in activities with their kids,” said GSC parent liaison Amanda Schulz.

The group’s Facebook page described the outing as a “No Child Left Inside” event, which stresses environmental literacy. Studies show that kids benefit cognitively, socially, physically and emotionally when they spend more time outdoors. Much of this research comes from author Richard Louv’s international bestseller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” which spotlights the alienation of children from the natural world.

“Living up here, parents do a really good job already,” said Schulz about parents in the Upper Peninsula. “We are just giving them more ideas and opportunities.”

While there is nothing wrong with watching TV or playing video games in moderation, we think this program is a great idea and we would like to see more like it. Children who are being brought up in the U.P. have the accessibility to fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities that big-city kids can only read about in books. We believe it’s very important to teach kids balance — doing so will give them an appreciation of nature at a young age, and make them much more well-rounded as adults.

An excerpt from Louv’s book reads: “Not that long ago, summer camp was a place where you camped, hiked in the woods, learned about plants and animals, or told firelight stories about ghosts or mountain lions. As likely as not today, ‘summer camp’ is a weight-loss camp, or a computer camp. For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear — to ignore.”

So, helping kids make those connections was one of the objectives of the “Sharing Nature” gathering. We really hope to see more programs like this in the future.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette