Saturday, January 2, 2016

Nature in Your Own Backyard

Being a fledgling forest kindergarten teacher, I have read and researched ample articles and books on the importance of the immersion of nature and unstructured play in the development of children. Being a parent to a toddler, I have also zoomed in on raising a wild child who appreciates nature and all it has to offer. This burst in research correlated with my ever-growing passion for outdoor education and environmental learning, my desire to provide wonderful natural experiences for my daughter, and my disdain for what I was required to do in my teaching career. Yet in all my research, I feel I have neglected a rich and remarkable option: the nature in my own backyard.

One of our favorite trees
Now, technically, the area I am about to describe in the official backyard of my neighbors across the street, but lucky for me, the entrance to this area is just down the block. I also never really neglected in the sense that I didn't use it, but now I use it for so much more.  Prior to the birth of my daughter, it was a shortcut to the movie theater or a more exciting walk for my dogs. Now it is a forest kindergarten teacher's and nature-loving daddy's dream come true. With prairie, forests, marshy areas, and water, it is ideal for outdoor education.

The pond
A forest stream
Tree Tunnel

The undeveloped land adjacent to my neighbor is apparently an important habitat for the Butler's garter snake, so it is not able to be subdivided up for commercial and recreational use. That is fine with me! I am not sure who does it, but someone takes care of the land for the neighborhood. I'd love to meet them and learn more about the history of the land.

From the entrance
One of the various intersecting trails
My family has already had many adventures there. As I aforementioned, taking it as a shortcut to the movie theater or trivia at Applebee's were the main source of our adventures prior to parenthood. With the dogs and eventually the daughter, it became a source of exploration and recreation. Many natural treasures were found. A deer leg was a bit concerning. The entire decomposing carcass next to the pond was oddly fascinating. Hummingbird sightings were great, but seeing the great horned owl was amazing. Occasionally running into other neighbors who use this hidden gem is always interesting, Seeing how many people have explored the land and built forts only makes me want to visit there more often. Walking through the prairie portion and weakly attempting to identify wildflowers. Ducking underneath the tree"tunnels" my daughter loves. Startling deer out of the brush and admiring their spronking away.There is always adventure to see and enjoy outside.

Embry points out the tower every time

Now however, looking at it and experiencing through the eyes of a forest kindergarten teacher and environmentally-enthusiastic father, I can only imagine what is there for us to explore in the future!

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