As a landscape architect, I recently joined the Children’s Outdoor Environment Professional Practice Network of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Before having children, I was a member of a different Professional Practice Network of ASLA, but now with two young children I find that the landscape architecture projects to which I am most drawn deal with creating spaces for children--spaces for them to play and to experience nature.
And being in nature and able to explore and play freely is something I struggle to make a part of my children’s daily life, strangely. Living in a small Mississippi city, one would think there would be no shortage of time spent in nature, as we do have much undeveloped land in close proximity. However, I’ve found that more often than not, we do not get out and spend time in nature or time in public spaces such as parks. Perhaps this is partly because land is not scarce here and most families live in single-family homes with private yards. There is definitely less chance social interaction outdoors. Most neighborhoods lack sidewalks and few people walk anywhere. The only nearby public park is filled with ball fields. Such organized, highly programmed recreation is the norm. It takes some effort on the part of parents here to provide opportunities for nature exploration.
So, looking at the Children’s Outdoor Environment website, I came across the Children & Nature Network and when I looked to see if there was a Nature Club for Families in Mississippi, I was happy to see that there was one in Hattiesburg!
I “liked” the Facebook page, posted a comment, got in touch with Nkrumah Frazier, and my family joined his family on the recent hike he organized at Lake Thoreau. We enjoyed the hike around the pond, seeing the work of industrious beavers, spotting some deer footprints, and discussing Nkrumah’s vision for the future of the club. I am hopeful that we will encourage others in our community to find value in such experiences and get out and join us!
Thanks so much for sharing this great story, Ashley! I'm glad you found both C&NN and the South MS FaN Club. I know that a lot of people share in the challenges and struggles of getting kids outside connected to nature on a daily basis (my husband and I included sometimes!). I admire the fact that you recognize these challenges and have taken steps - both personal and professional - to meet the struggles and do something about it! And keep spreading the word about the South MS FaN Club - I know that Nkrumah has got a great vision and great plans in the works!