By Kirsten Dallimore
Growing up, I spent most of my time outside. I loved going for walks, swimming in rivers and lakes, camping, canoeing and sitting around a fire at night. Some of my best times were spent taking my dog for a walk in a big farmers’ field behind our house.
I would spend hours exploring. I remember daydreaming what it would be like to live in a forest, surviving off the land and learning to use plants and trees to build my home. I felt a sense of belonging and freedom from people telling me what to do and how to do it.
This experience helped me develop a connection with nature and an appreciation of the natural world. The animals, trees, plants and birds became my teachers. To this day, nature is a magical place for me, full of new wonders and inspiration.
Because of my own childhood experiences, I feel very passionate about giving children opportunities to spend time outdoors. Many studies show that spending time in nature increases calmness, happiness, creativity and intelligence.
As an environmental educator, travelling to different schools around the province, I have noticed that every school is different in how much nature kids have access to. I have been to schools that have very little green space and to schools surrounded by vast forests. In some schools, play areas are paved with black concrete and children rarely see or touch anything natural during their school day. Other schools have large trees standing in their school yard, big rocks to climb over and nearby creeks to explore. Some schools even have access to a forest students can visit throughout the year.
I know from my own teaching experiences, if your school is not located in a natural setting, it can be challenging to find creative and accessible ways to get your students to experience nature.
If you belong to a school that doesn’t have access to a forest or another kind of natural area such as a beach, garden or meadow, what can you do to give your students an opportunity to connect with the natural world?
Answering this question is a big part of my work as an environmental educator with Sierra Club BC. I have put together a list of 10 activities that might give you some ideas for fun ways to get your students outside and learning about the natural world.