This week, March 15-21, is National Wildlife Week and a great time to get outside. From local and urban parks to National Wilderness Areas people seek nature to play, enjoy the view, blow off steam, meditate, pray, study or simply relax. That begins in childhood for some. In fact, some of our greatest scientists were inspired by childhood experiences outdoors, for example Richard Feynman and E. O Wilson.
It’s not just those who go on to careers in science who have important connections through childhood experiences outdoors. Outdoor recreation is connected to health and well being throughout life. I became most in tune with these connections in childhood when I chaperoned a group of middle school children on two school trips. They were pretty much the same group of children on both trips, one to Washington D. C. and the other to a nature retreat in the north Georgia mountains. The children were equally excited about both trips, but turned on for the outdoor experience in a way that I did not see in our nation’s capitol. That’s why I’m writing about the upcoming National Wildlife Week. After sharing the outdoors experience with these kids, I decided to become PTA Chairperson for the Energy and Environment Committee. In that position, I became familiar with some of the programs of the National Wildlife Federation. The programs they had then, for example, Certified Wildlife Habitats, are still going.
They also have new materials and new alliances, not just designed to foster an appreciation of wildlife and the joys of nature, but also to combat health problems like fighting childhood obesity. The NWF has partnered with the movie campaign for Where the Wild Things Are and their website features a character doll, Lanie, made by American Girls. Lanie “discovers the world in her own backyard” in her hometown of Boston. She’s the girl of the year and available for just one year.
It is good to have a special time when you call attention to things that are important, but those things are important always. So, if you can’t plan anything in time for outdoors week, or if you come by this post a week, or six months after outdoors week, the kids, the outdoors, the fun and the opportunities for learning will still be around and there are plenty of ways to get involved year ’round. Here are some suggestions from the NWF, but there is no reason to stop there. The first organization that pops into your head is most likely to be the one with which you have the strongest connection.
We plan to attend the Wakulla Wildlife Festival for our celebration. We’ll let you know how it goes!