When I think of my childhood, it is difficult to find a memorable moment that didn’t involve the outdoors.
Every day after school, you’d hear my sisters and I running off of the bus, kicking off our shoes and heading straight for the backyard. Whether it was catching frogs, playing house in our tree fort or simply exploring the woods, we spent a lot of time outside.
Fast forwarding a few years, I now see that these childhood experiences are a big factor in why I am passionate about finding a career where I can connect children to nature.
Before I attended Children and Nature Network (C&NN)’s Legacy Camp I knew two things; I loved working in the field of Early Childhood Development and I was my best self when I was outdoors.
I have always loved interacting with children and seeing their wonder of nature. I majored in Human Development and knew soon after taking a Family Studies class that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of families through their children.
This past school year, I worked at an Early Childhood Center with children ages 2-3. I witnessed firsthand the power nature can have on the curiosity, engagement and demeanor of a young child. I was also able to educate parents on the impact getting their children outside can have on their development. I learned that nature and education go hand in hand. That job solidified my belief that the outdoor world has the power to improve quality of life in individuals of all ages. But I found myself yearning for more.
I was lucky to have a director who took the time to get to know me personally and who believed that I had the skills to really make a difference. She forwarded me an email about the Legacy Camp and encouraged me, saying “this looks right up your alley, go get ‘em!” I looked over it a couple times, re-read Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, and knew Legacy Camp would be a place where I could grow.
I crossed my fingers and a month or two later, while exploring the woods in North Carolina, I found out I was accepted. (Everything happens for a reason, right?)
Now that Legacy Camp is over, I have had time to reflect on those five stimulating and empowering days in West Virginia.
• Legacy Camp provided me courage to follow my dreams and confidence to make a difference. I left Legacy Camp knowing that I can combine my two passions of children and nature and turn them into a career! Legacy Camp solidified my reasons for leaving my job to pursue my passion and become a part of this movement.
• Legacy Camp also opened my eyes to the true meaning of connecting children to nature. I now see that access to nature is not just for the privileged. As the world becomes more urban, Natural Leaders need to stand up and ensure access to everyone.
• I left camp feeling that nature is a place, but also a mindset, a way to be connected. By being in an ongoing community of like minded Natural Leaders, I feel supported and empowered. Another piece of Legacy Camp I take with me is that I must always practice what I preach. So I will not only talk about nature to others, but you will find me on hiking trails, at camp sites and on tops of mountains throughout Colorado!
Juan Martinez, C&NN’s Director of Leadership Development and the Natural Leaders Network, told us, “The movement to connect children to nature needs champions” and I am taking that message back to invest in my community, just as the Children & Nature Network invested in me.
Now that I am back in Colorado I am eager to share what I learned at Legacy Camp. I believe my biggest focus will be in the field of education. I plan to make an everyday effort to become connected to children, parents, teachers and schools within my community. Because nature is a teacher and a tool, my objective is to educate through awareness and hands on nature-based experiences through engagement in my community. The power of nature has a huge impact not only on the quality of our lives, but on the whole environment. My hope is to empower other educators who share my passion of changing the world one kiddo at a time.
I’ll end with a quote from Richard Louv that truly sparked my passion in connecting children to nature:
“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
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