Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Raising Environmentalists Without Rallies

Ever since I was 4 years old I have been going to a rustic cabin on a remote lake in Ontario Canada with my family. The water is clean enough to drink right from the lake, there are few people and there are more stars at night than a city dweller could ever imagine. Over the years this became a place where I recharged my soul for the year ahead. It is where I feel one with all of creation. It became sacred to me by the time I was 8. Around that time, we heard that the government was going to open up the land to logging and a road was going to be built near our cabin. Prior to that time we had to take a boat across a 10 mile lake to reach our cabin. I am sure the adults initially saw this as a relief and a welcome convenience. My brother and I were horrified. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. After I cried over the news, I became angry and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada letting him know how logging was going to ruin this place for my family and all the animals that lived here. This was my first act as an environmentalist.

I share this story to illustrate that I did not learn to protect the earth from anything I was taught at school, from Earth Day celebrations or from hearing about pollution in the news. I learned to be an environmentalist when something I felt a deep connection to was about to be taken away. I felt the wrongness of it in my core, even at that young age.

As an environmentalist I hope to share my convictions with my own children in hopes that they too will learn to live lightly and make the world a better place. I have been tempted to take my children to rallies and I admit that I have shared too many of my frustrations about the latest political/environmental clash from the news. Our young children don't need to know what is wrong with the world, at least not yet. Adult problems are for adult to work on. Children these days have enough of the despair of the adult world to carry around on their shoulders. What young children need is to spend time in nature in a state of wonder and awe. They need to find their own sacred places that become a part of who they are. My hope is that one day they too will be enraged at threats to the environment, but not because of what I have taught them, but because of how they have lived.

Spelunking at Ledge Park

I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived here my entire life minus three years, yet I am still discovering new and wonderful places. Our family's new favorite place to go is Ledge Park in Dodge County. This park is a few miles East of Horicon at the base of the the Horicon Marsh. It is about a 50 minute drive from the Lake Country area. The park has camping and the marsh, effigy mounds and the Wild Goose bike trail are all nearby. 

What makes this park so wonderful is the Ledge trail. This is a cluster of big rocks that make a series of "open caves" (feel like caves but are open at the top). Kids and adults alike have a fantastic time exploring and climbing. Both times we have been there, the kids were literally squealing with delight! 

Courtney and I would to hear about your favorite nature outings so we can keep discovering.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nature Kids - Taking a Power Vacation

This month Kris and I will be blogging about ideas for exploring nature with your kids, places in and around Lake Country that are great for nature hikes, and ways to get your kids outside. We hope you will add your favorite places and ideas in the comments!

This weekend my husband and I hosted our 6th annual Cousin Camp, an event we host during the summer for our nieces and nephews. Each year we have a different theme (space camp, archeology camp, Survivor camp...) and this year the theme was "Unplugged". The premise was that no electricity could be used during camp (2 days). This theme paved the way for many cool activities (like tubing down the Bark River, as shown above) and it was great how not using electricity became a sort of game for the kids. Actually, pretty soon it was apparent that no one even missed the electricity... brushing teeth by the light of the campfire was fun, not a sacrifice. After camp my husband mentioned that we ourselves should have occasional "power vacations" where we turn off the power for a couple days. I thought this was a really cool idea and a great thing to do with kids as summer break winds down. What can you do on a "power vacation"? Here are just a few ideas:
  • Spend the whole day outside, making it a goal to not go inside (except perhaps to use the bathroom!)
  • Make tin can lanterns in preparation for an evening by candlelight
  • Cook dinner over a camp stove or campfire
  • Make a solar oven and bake cookies or some other goodies
  • Play outdoor games, a great list of all those old-time games can be found here
  • Build something (we built a play fort during camp using no power tools... the kids had a blast using old-time, manual drills and saws)
  • Put on an outdoor play
  • Read
  • Talk amongst yourselves
  • Go on a nature hike. Then go on another. Then another. Re-visit the same trail at different times of the day and see how it changes.
  • Count stars
  • Sleep in a tent
  • Make your own music
  • Bust out your old Snoopy Sno-cone maker or ice cream maker and build muscles while making tasty treats
The list could go on and on, of course, this is just a start. The point is to take yourself off the grid for a day and see where it takes you.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Another great reusable bag option

Check out this reusable bag company, Bags on the Run,
They are inexpensive ($1.50) so you can get some extras for the trunk of your car so you don't have the "I'd like to use cloth, but I keep forgetting my bags" excuse. I like the option of getting an organization logo printed-could be a great school or church fundraiser or promo.