Community

Teachers introduce children to nature

Teacher Tillie Scruton directs children in an activity during the Junior Naturalist Program last year.  Scruton grew up exploring the outdoors on Waldron Island. - Courtesy photo
Teacher Tillie Scruton directs children in an activity during the Junior Naturalist Program last year. Scruton grew up exploring the outdoors on Waldron Island.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Oak Harbor’s Environmental Educator Maribeth Crandell is disturbed by some children’s playtime preferences. Kids choose to climb higher in Xbox levels than in trees. Kids trade freeze tag for tagging their friends on Facebook. But rather than getting depressed by children’s lack of interest in the outdoors, Crandell has decided to show them what nature has to offer.

Last year, Crandell and her friend Tillie Scruton, teacher, Beach Watcher and Audubon member, started the Junior Naturalist Program for kids. Crandell said she and Scruton both practically lived outside growing up, and they wanted to show kids how fun it can be to use their imagination outdoors.

The program consists of activities that are designed to make children feel comfortable outdoors and to teach them to identify different plants and animals. Additionally, the kids are taught to understand and appreciate how natural systems work.

When the program was first introduced, city council member Rick Almberg thought the program should resemble a city service project, which Crandell thought was a wonderful idea.

The kids planted native shrubs, cleaned up beaches and stenciled storm drains giving them a sense of ownership and pride for their city parks.

“Giving kids the opportunity to play in a scrap of wild nature unleashes their sense of discovery,” Crandell wrote in a press release. “Studies show that students who get this type of experience do better in school.

“Last year we started the Junior Naturalist Program with a handful of kids. Some were at home in natural areas and became leaders enticing the others to delve into the cattails to find... a snake! A frog! A fish! We took advantage of these ‘teachable moments’.”

The Junior Naturalist Program is for kids ages 9 to 12. It will take place this year on three Wednesdays, Aug. 4, 11 and 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. This free event will be held at three locations: Freund Marsh, Fort Nugent and Maylor’s Point. To register call 360-279-4762.

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