I am new here on CONNECT but not too
new to the movement. My husband and I have always spent the bulk of our free time outdoors - hiking, walking, birding, traveling, exploring the natural world. After our first son was born, we made it a goal to modify our activities as necessary to include him
in our love of the natural world and getting outdoors, not
to drop things we love because they might be challenging or different or "dangerous" with kids. Well, we now have two sons: Owen who recently turned 5, and Luke who is 3 1/2. Though we have given up lazy Saturday mornings of lounging around, reading, talking without interruptions... what we have gained in return I cannot adequately put into words.
Ron and I never really stopped getting out into nature. Yes, how we did things changed, but in many ways that has turned out to be a good thing. We started inviting friends with young kids to come on hikes with us. That turned into the occasional group camping trip too. After we read Louv's book, we were inspired to formalize our outings a bit and reach out to others in our community and "Family Adventures in Nature" was born. Late last spring Ron was invited to be on the steering committee for the newly formed San Diego Children and Nature Collaborative (related to his job). As soon as I could, I started attending too and now head up the "Families in Nature" group within SDCaN. In this role, I have set out an action plan (attached document - feedback welcome!) that aims to achieve the overall goal of helping families understand the importance of getting their kids out in nature and ultimately seeing more families
spend more time
in nature... a good lot of it unstructured time.
The first phase of this, within our own club, has gone quite well. Eventually I'd like to have a functional, dynamic website (we already own the domain), but since I'm technologically challenged and can't pay anyone to create a site for me either, I am using two free sites to promote our club and activities: BigTent.com and Facebook. There are some 70 famiies on the BigTent site (some observers from the movement, like Amy) and over 90 members in our Facebook group (hard to tell how many are local, long distance, moral supporters, etc.).
Here's what we've got going on currently:
- Monthly "Adventures", scheduled on a Saturday or Sunday at varied locations around the county - typically around 20 families attend. These are generally "hikes" which are unstructured and during which we foster and encourage families to follow their kids' leads. We see what we see, discover, explore, find what we find and get as far as we get. THAT is the goal. It has been great to see "repeat" families and watch them evolve and grow in nature. It's a beautiful thing to spend time in nature with MY boys, with MY husband... and it is truly joyful to watch other families do the same.
- Weekly "Wilderness Wednesdays", currently scheduled in the morning but later this month we will alternate between 9:30 am and 1:00 pm start time to allow school-aged kids to attend (Wed is minimum day). With this activity we explore a different trail or natural area in our community. Another mom in our group FAN started this group. I love it so much that I am searching for other families in diverse areas of San Diego who'd like support or mentorship in starting up their own "Neighborhood Nature Network" (or whatever they'll be called).
- Sporadic gatherings, scheduled at different times. One example is Pet Rocks. Last week we had two Pet Rock Picking and Painting Parties, one on Wednesday afternoon and one on Saturday morning. I wrote about that experience in the forum "What are you doing to reconnect children to nature?" - it's titled "Pet Rocks!" I'll add photos of that when I'm done here. We will be using "Pet Rocks" on other outings... because everyone knows that Pet Rocks need unstructured time in nature too!
San Diego is big, populated, diverse and spread out. We also have the most bio-diverse county in the lower 48. So much to explore. Really. The desert, mountains and beach are all within a 30 - 90 minute drive of our house. Am I an expert in all of our habitats? Not even one, really! But I am eager to explore and learn with my family and others.
So, that's kind of where I'm at. Where we're at. Check out the action plan I attached if you have a minute. I'd love any feedback. Keep in mind that that action plan is not for Family Adventures in Nature. It's for my work with the San Diego Children and Nature Collaborative (SDCaN) concerning outreach to geographically, culturally and socioeconomically diverse populations in San Diego. I already know of one modification I'm going to make/add (re: small neighborhood groups). My next post will likely be about challenges - either with our own FNC or with my "bigger" work with SDCaN.
I look forward to collaborating with and learning will others here on CONNECT!