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Message from Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt
Youth in Nature
I never thought “connecting kids with nature” would be a thing.
Nature to the “child me” was like air. It was all around me. Even when my family lived in a suburban community I could always find a ditch to explore or a tree to climb. I guess this is why I have a hard time realizing that kids today need a program to get outside, to play, to explore, to be in nature.
But that’s where we are – even rural kids like in our community do not have free-range access to nature anymore. Private property boundaries are strictly enforced, for many practical reasons. We are much more conscious of safety for kids. That’s smart. Kids don’t have as much free time as they did, given the push toward academic achievement and managed extra-curricular activities – all good things. Somehow pastimes in nature has been “structured out” of kids’ lives.
This creates a problem. Big questions need to be answered by the next generation about how humans will regard our natural resources, biodiversity, wild places, and how we feed ourselves. Without quality direct experiences in nature to draw upon where will the next generation’s values be rooted?
Up to 39 percent of 6 to 12 year olds and 54 percent of 13 to 17 year olds lack interest in getting out into nature, according to a recent report by California Council of Land Trusts. Less than half of children aged six and up participate in outdoor recreation. If kids get any exposure to nature at all, it is more than likely through a screen – kids between ages eight and 18 spend an average of 6.5 hours per day with electronic media. We already understand the impact this is having on health – by 2050 nearly half of Californians will be obese.
Spring is a wonderful time to get outdoors and the Land Trust outings have a great focus on youth activities in nature. Treks, EcoKids, a new Bio-Blitz series, restoration activities, Celebration of Trails — all lead up to camp. Our popular summer nature camps are held in June and July. If you have kids or grandkids who haven’t attended camp at Burton Homestead now is your chance! It’s a blast. If you want to support the program and send a child to camp on a scholarship, please donate to our Youth Appeal.
Burton Homestead is a flourishing hub for youth in nature programs offered by the Land Trust and other community organizations. Instructors from Four Elements Earth Education teach young people earth skills; Sierra Harvest farmers show kids where their food comes from; and Sierra Streams Institute brings hands-on science curriculum to school kids. This spring, BYLT opened a new two-mile loop trail at the preserve. In coming months, BYLT will reveal how a 1925 homestead cottage will be turned into a nature center.
If this is important to you and you believe that young people need a place where they can learn about and experience nature, please support the cause! Learn more, register for camp or donate to BYLT’s youth appeal at: www.bylt.org.
~ Executive Director, Marty Coleman-Hunt