March 7, 2014
Connecting Children to Nature—Topic of Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ Next Lecture
By Cathy Keddy
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us to Nature, continues March 20 with its 6th presentation, “Connecting Children to Nature: Urgency and Value.” Anyone who possesses a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature will enjoy these lectures. Parents, teachers, cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists, and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore Lanark County’s natural heritage and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.
Shawna Babcock of KidActive, a Renfrew-based non-profit organization, will present this lecture. KidAcitve encourages kids, teachers and parents to get outside more in our local, natural spaces to enhance learning opportunities and build physical activities and fun into children’s daily routines. Connecting children and their families with the outdoors fosters a positive relationship with the natural world and is a critical link for the sustainability of our environment and our society. See http://kidactive.ca/ for more background.
Every child needs access to natural spaces for their health, well-being, and success. Ontario Nature, a provincial natural heritage conservation organization, says that “health practitioners have long known that outdoor, nature-focused play and exploration are integral to the healthy development of any child. But a growing disconnect between young people and nature has hurt children’s collective health and well-being, contributing to increased rates of obesity. The disconnect has also decreased kids’ attention spans and mechanisms for coping with stress.” Under the leadership of the Back to Nature Network and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, a coalition of concerned organizations including Ontario Nature developed the recently-launched Ontario Children’s Outdoor Charter.
This Charter is aimed at reversing these alarming trends by getting children away from electronics and into nature. It encourages and enables children of all ages to explore their natural world. All young people have the right to discover nature and play outdoors, whether swimming in a lake, building an outdoor fort or hiking in a local park. Participating in nature-based activities not only improves the long-term health and well-being of young people, but also helps to instil a lifelong appreciation of nature. People who learn to love nature as children are more apt to help protect it later in life.
Opportunities for children to become acquainted with and develop a love for nature and natural areas are provided in our neighbourhood. For example, MVFN has a Young Naturalists program of indoor and outdoor adventures for kids ages 7-12 (http://mvfn.ca/?cat=614). The Macnamara Field Naturalists (Arnprior) also has a program for young naturalists (contact Alicia Salyi at firstname.lastname@example.org). Ontario Nature too has a program—Nature Guardians (different events geared for ages 5-18; http://www.ontarionature.org/connect/nature_guardians/index.php). In addition to these programs, there are some excellent online resources (check out http://www.incredibleworld.ca and http://onnaturemagazine.com/nature-notes).
Parents, teachers, community leaders and our youth…how can you afford to miss Shawna Babcock’s presentation, “Connecting Children to Nature: Urgency and Value,” at MVFN’s next meeting, Thursday March 20, 7:30pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.