By Melissa Moore, Education Programs Manager
With Memorial Day behind us, it seems that summer might finally have arrived.
The education team at PAWS are busy preparing for a new early childhood program for children aged three to five years, scheduling scout badge classes, as well as getting ready for community education classes and outreach events. With our eyes on our computers and our bags packed full of brochures and craft supplies, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s happening outside our window.
Summer means sunshine and playing outdoors, barbeques and baseball, beaches or backpacking. It can be a time of family gatherings and vacations. As you make plans for the upcoming season, I encourage you to not only get outside, but to take a child with you. Introduce them to the beauty in nature and make time to go exploring with them.
A female Rufous Hummingbird at a Salmonberry flower
Rachel Carson, groundbreaking author of Silent Spring (1962) said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
We all spend too much time in front of electronic screens, interacting with keyboards. It would be good for us to get outdoors. Time spent outdoors can help counteract some current childhood issues like obesity and decreased attention span. In adults, time outdoors has even been linked with increased creativity and improved moods.
Perhaps the most important reason to get outdoors is to observe the wonders of the natural world and to better understand the beings that live around us.
This morning, as I took my dogs outside before work, I saw a beautiful (and tiny) flash of yellow and red in the trees outside of my house. A brilliant little bird glanced my way briefly, then zipped into the trees and a loud chorus of chirping played for several seconds where he disappeared.
A moment later the chorus stopped and the little bird was back on his tree limb. Right there, above my head, a Western Tanager had fed his nest of babies!
A family of birds was going about their lives, raising their children, and probably enjoying the sunshine as much as I was. I felt as though I had shared a short moment with this beautiful creature, and you can bet I’ll be watching for him and his brood every morning from now on!
As I entered the reality of my day, I also realized that it’s moments like this that motivate every youth education program that I present. At PAWS we strive to help children experience moments of connectedness with other beings. These moments are the seeds of empathy, the ability to understand the world through another animal’s eyes. Empathy leads to kindness and compassion, “helping behaviors” in the words of psychologists.
Great Blue Heron
I think Rachel Carson may have had this in mind when she wrote, ”The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
We couldn’t agree more, and hope to see you outdoors this summer!
Conserving Land; Preserving Human Health by Howard Frumkin, M.D., and Richard Louv