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My Child in the Woods: Part V
A Son's Suggestion by Jim Clark
One of the most enjoyable aspects of nature photography is that it gets me out into this wonderful world. A surprise or two will also be discovered around each corner of the trail or bend in the road. Mountain Memories will serve as my conduit to share with you my experiences exploring some of my favorite places, especially in my home state of West Virginia and along the fabled Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. I will also provide a quick tip or two along the way as well.
When I invited my son Carson to participate in a presentation I was going to give at a conference for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he accepted without any hesitation as long as he got a name tag. Doesn’t take much for an eight year old to agree to something. Carson had helped me with several of my programs since he was about six, just by setting up the stage, doing sound checks, handing out door prizes, and such. But he wanted to do more. He saw how much fun I had talking to folks about my love for nature and photography, so he wanted to be part of that excitement as well.
The conference – Reconnecting People with Nature – was a week-long meeting of natural resource professionals discussing approaches for getting adults and children reconnected to nature. Carson and I were to be close-out speakers
For Carson’s program, I decided to ask him a series of questions, all related to how to get kids interested in nature. When it was time for Carson to get on stage with me, he had the biggest smile on his face. Here is what he recommended to the audience.
Carson told the group the reason he got so interested in nature was because his Dad and Mom were interested. Our interest stirred his interest. But he mentioned it was more fun if we were with him to participate. So, don’t think by passing on the responsibility to another adult that you’ll get your child interested in nature. Be with them.
When I asked Carson why he liked nature so much, he offered up that he loved being outside, he enjoyed watching wildlife and just like to go outside and have fun. Allow them to explore on their own terms. Be there to watch and hopefully, get dirty with them.
I asked Carson what he likes to do when in nature. He said exploring, seeing new things, taking pictures (of course!), using binoculars and walkie-talkies, looking for fossils, and fishing. So what do we gather from this? Allow kids to just explore. Find new places to explore. Embrace the new technology in their nature activities. Make it active and make it so that they can achieve something in the end.
I asked Carson how we can get his friends interested in nature. He said to first just tell them about how wonderful nature can be. Then take them into nature and make it fun. And make sure you let them use Walkie-talkies! So Carson is telling
us to go out there with them and to embrace their interest in the new technology.
After Carson’s program, he was given a rousing standing ovation. He wasn’t sure what was happening, so I had to explain to him that the audience loved what he said. He was very happy, especially when he was presented with his very own customized walking stick.
Getting children reconnected to nature is no easy task these days, and with less adults participating in nature related activities, the job is even more daunting. But at the conference that day, we learned from an expert – an eight year old who said go out there with them and have fun. Are you up for the challenge?