How do we keep connecting with youth, especially at this time of physical distancing, when connection is most important? That is the difficult question we faced in mid-March and continue to face.
The pandemic is impacting thousands of communities, human and non-human alike, helping people, comfortably or not, embody the understanding of interdependence and connectedness of life on this planet.
As we come to terms with the pandemic and grapple with what to do, we find ourselves turning to the wisdom of Sigurd Olson, someone who understood the interdependence and connectedness of life. As a writer, teacher and leader of the environmental movement, Olson wrote about the importance of connecting to the natural world as an integral and inherent part of being human.
Olson spoke of the necessity of the intangibles in our lives. People need to “come in touch with silence, cyclic rhythms, and natural beauty if they are to retain their perspective.” What better time than a pandemic to support people in retaining their perspective?
With a little creativity, we were certain we could still provide opportunities for youth (and anyone with a childlike spirit) to get outside, stay healthy, get creative and engage with one another in positive ways, even during a safer-at-home order.
So, we created a 30-day Microadventure Challenge where we ask youth to head outside and then share about their experiences on our Facebook page. It is a highlight of our day to see each new post!
Participants have mapped their backyard, found animal tracks and written creative stories of what they observed, explored for signs of spring, created art inspired by nature, looked for homes of plants and animal friends living nearby, and, written nature inspired haiku’s.
One mother shared, “This has been so wonderful for my girls and helps because they are wonderful activities I don’t have to plan!” Another parent shares, “This is such a fun thing for my three kids to participate in!” We love hearing that we are helping not only youth but parents too.
We also enjoy knowing this program supports participant health and well-being, especially at a time when health is on everyone’s minds. The benefits of stepping outside and engaging with nature are many. To name just a few: reduce stress, improve mood, improve sleep, decrease depression and anxiety, and, increase connection to self. Connection with the natural world is like preventative medicine for all of us.
In these challenging times, connecting with kids and engaging them with fun activities in their natural environments is a way we can care for the youth in our community. This is critical for a healthy future for us all. The 30-Day Challenge is just one way to maintain these connections. Please join us. It’s not too late!
Katherine Jenkins is the youth outreach educator at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. Clair Emmons is the SOEI youth outreach programs fellow. You can find the microadventures on Facebook on the SOEI Youth Outreach Programs page.