I’ve come to believe that given enough time and an encouraging adult, any child will come to love nature. There are some like my nieces, Nala and Nishta, who need no convincing and are up for any adventure outside. Others who have grown up with less outdoor time and more screen time take more encouraging and introduction to the wonders of nature.
Camp Kaniksu entered its second year with plenty of interest and a lot of new faces. The year before we had about a dozen kids in our 9-12 yr old camp and this year we filled it with 24. For three weeks we met kids daily at the University of Idaho property on Boyer and gave them the opportunity to take off their shoes and be wild in nature. We caught bugs, frogs, and snakes, climbed trees, made a 30 ft grass rope and played tug-of-war, built forts, ate wild berries, wove cattails, studied animal tracks, listened to bird language, and became wild animals for a feast in the forest.
I hear a lot of worry about this generation and their addiction to technology and subsequent disconnect from nature. These three weeks of camp have shown me once again that given the opportunity kids are happy to leave the screens behind and go outside to experience the real thing.
And they fall in love.
Again and again I heard kids say how much fun they were having and how they did not want it to end. One little girl named Sadie said, ” I think this has been the best week of my life”. Then she paused and said, ” And I’m not just saying that to make you feel good”. I laughed freely and was once again grateful for the opportunity that I get to connect kids to the earth.
In some ways I feel that it is time to rewrite the story. Perhaps it is not the kid’s fault that they are not getting enough time in the dirt, but their role models – the adults who are constantly on their screens. How can we tell kids to go outside and play when we are not willing to go with them. My hope is that families will start making the decision together to venture outside more often. Whether for a overnight paddle down Johnson creek to the spit or just fifteen minutes after dinner to watch and listen to the birds. What we do at Kaniksu, I hope, is offer inspiration but the real connection to nature will always take place in families.