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Overcoming a nature deficit

I grew up in a Midwestern city, but was fortunate to have a home with a bit of land around it. My parents purchased several lots on either side of our house so they would not get built upon. Much of the land was allowed to grow wild, with mature trees and some underbrush. My brother and I had a virtual forest outside to explore and camp in.

And we did spend a fair amount of time playing in the “woods.” Unlike many kids today, we did not spend all of our time in front of a computer or television screen. We watched plenty of TV, no doubt, but much of our entertainment was self-made in the outdoors. It is too bad that many kids do not do this today.

We found snakes, bugs, and spiders. Sometimes we would capture them and keep them for a while, watching what they ate and learning about them. The pond had a snapping turtle that we trained to eat from our hands. We could dig a few worms from the garden and dangle them in the water while the turtle came up from the pond’s depths like a leviathan, grabbing the worms from our hands (always making sure your fingers were far up the worm, away from the turtle, of course).

We would run through the woods like frontiersmen, sneaking up on big scary animals (usually squirrels). We practiced using our pocket knives, and later our hunting knives, learning to safely cut branches and sharpen sticks. There is a whole bunch of things you can do with a sharpened stick!

It was from these early experiences that I learned a love of nature, and that I became comfortable being in nature. I was happy being outside, communing with insects. And I am sure that these experiences led me to ultimately want to study nature professionally. Many kids today have a nature deficit, so do what you can to help your kids learn about and become comfortable outdoors. It can change a life.

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