“Mom, can I watch a video?” asks my little guy way too often. “No! Less screen time,…more green time!” I tell him with a tickle. He throws his head back and laughs. This brilliant byline is the invention of Nessa the Nature Nanny, a delightful Canadian-born educator we met last week. She is a certified teacher who is bringing her career to focus on increasing outdoor and environmental education for elementary-aged kids.
Nature Education Today
While there are more and more outdoor pre-schools and forest kindergartens opening in the US, outdoor education for K-12 students is lacking in many schools. Between all that indoor school time and too much screen time at home, kids have what Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which may explain the high rates of depression, obesity and hyperactivity problems our kids face.
Nessa does what she can as a substitute/guest teacher, and is also running an after-school program for grades K-5. She takes kids to the woods in various King County parks for a few hours between school dismissal and dinner time. Anyone can (and should) take kids to a park, but Nessa has actually developed fun lesson plans that she combines with little hikes to make a well-rounded program. She is also enrolling now for her spring break camps April 11-15th.
The Nature Nanny’s Adventure Club
We caught up with Nessa during her Outdoor Adventure Club in Carkeek Park last weekend. She had planned a fun game that was part scavenger hunt, part Memory/Concentration. The kids had to memorize an array of items from the woods and then go collect similar samples in a bandana. We worked on identifying Douglas Fir trees versus Red Cedars. The kids were especially interested in lichens, which we started to see everywhere once they were pointed out to us. The Indian Plum shrubs were leafing out, and it was muddy and wet but not actually raining.
My son was mostly obsessed with the prospect of seeing a train, which we finally did see. It was 3 BSNF locomotives pulling countless open cars of coal – so awful to see. I think I will take him to Olympia on Friday with the Sierra Club to urge for the last remaining coal plant in WA to be phased out.
We also saw a snag (standing dead tree) that was being broken down into natural woodchips by woodpeckers, and a banana slug that waved its antennae at us. Some of these Seattle Parks are just such treasures. Thank goodness someone had the foresight to protect them. We even headed down to the beach to visit the ducks. My kid could not resist walking into the water, as he did last week at Matthew’s Beach. At least this time I got him into his Muddy Buddy & rainboots first.
Overall, it was a great morning. I refreshed my tree and plant ID knowledge and learned a bit more, too. We got some hiking in and saw cool things we don’t usually see. Thanks, Nature Nanny!