By Cynthia Marple
Connecting to Nature is Vital for Development
Richard Louv is the author of two books, Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, in which he discussed how important is for people to spend time in nature. He founded the Children & Nature Network to promote creative ways to connect children and their communities with nature.
Exploring Nature Develops Calmness and Gentleness
From something as simple as planting a seed in a pot to grow in your apartment to geocaching, find a way for your child to explore nature. Seeing other living creatures around them encourages gentleness and curiosity. Patients in hospitals who were able to see natural landscapes tended to heal faster. Many physicians and other academics have studied and continue to study the positive impact of spending time in nature.
Nature will Improve your Child’s Creativity and Cognitive Abilities.
Watching a plant grow from a seed or bird watching makes children aware of beauty and how living things change over time. They will try and figure out how a bird flies or why a seed grows.
Adding Time in Nature is a Challenge
When I tell my two boys that we are heading out for an adventure in nature, they pause and give me a concerned look. “We can bring our phones, right?” the 11 year old will ask with a sharp eyed look. Why? They know nature means no technology. “Screen free time” makes them panic as if the world had ended. So, I decided to try geocaching because it requires a GPS locator which means technology is used.
Geocaching Blends Technology and Nature for a Treasure Hunt Adventure
There are applications on smart phones and tablets as well as desktop internet programs. I searched for geocaching on my iPhone and found a free app that was well rated.
The app used coordinates from the GPS locater placed in the hidden container or “geocache.” A lot of green dots showed up on the map. There were dozens of caches nearby to find. So, my kids, my husband and I picked a dot that was in a park we could walk to. How hard could it be? The tricky part was when we were within about fifteen feet of the geocache. The app showed a compass line that indicated when you needed to change direction. I’m embarrassed to report we did not find the first cache.
Finding Hidden Geocaches is Tricky
Undaunted by our initial failure as new members of the geocache treasure hunting community, the four of us picked a new dot. Following the compass and the maps, we ended up on a grassy area with trees between manicured beds of ground cover. We once again felt we were walking in circles. We did not see a black and clear plastic container with a log book and tokens to trade – the type we had seen on the web. Of course, we realized were missing something.
Technology Gets You Close but Human Problem Solving and Searching Finishes the Job
Time to put on our clever “treasure hiding” hats and think where it might be hidden. And, we realized, not all the caches use the same container. My husband and younger son went home. But my older son and I continued and picked a third dot to find. We slowed down and focused on looking under rocks and boards. Then, we looked up and really checked the tree branches near where the app showed “X” marked the spot. Voila! We found a tube wrapped in camouflage tape.
The GPS got us close but then we had to use our brains, eyes and problem solving skills to find the actual cache. One huge lesson was that technology was limited. The compass arrow would send us in circles under the cache or around the cache. Once close by, we needed to put away the gadget and search.
Reading Maps and Learning North, South, East and West.
Geocaching adventures have other benefits such as showing a person how to read a map and follow directions on a compass. It also reinforces the idea that a cache may be above, below, behind or beside us. Unlike a screen, we need to search a 360 degree world.
Create Your Geocache and Send Others on a Scavenger Hunt.
There are dozens of options for ready to use containers that you can purchase to hide your own geocaches. Many websites and apps will allow you to add your newly hidden cache to their system. See how many folks are able to find you hidden geocache!
Nature Helps Nurture You and Your Children.
When I am stressed, if I take a short walk outside, the tension drains fairly quickly. This is true for children as well. Whether you try geocaching, a short walk or a new summer camp centered on the outdoors, remember to take a break from inside the house, office or playroom to see the sky. For lots of exciting outdoor summer camps, go to iquriouskids.com.
Some great finds:
Making time to explore and learn about nature is critical for young minds and hearts. How does your family make time for nature? Please share in the comments!