This article was written by Mikayla Opichka, Woodland Dunes education intern and student at Silver Lake College.
When I feel upset or overwhelmed, I love going for a nature walk, listening to the birds singing and the sounds of crunching leaves underneath my feet. I feel the sun on my face, and the wind gently sweeping my hair. It always amazes me when I look at plant and animal life, knowing there is a definite and beautiful pattern to each. All of these things instantly bring me to a state of awe and relaxation, changing my mood right on the spot. I am sure many of you have had similar experiences.
Scientists have been studying this innate sense, called biophilia, where humans are soothed and exhilarated by nature, wanting to become connected with this natural world. Working in a daycare and with many schools I see this obvious change in demeanor in children once we step foot out the doors. Curiosity sparks as children, and adults, step outside and see the natural world. This appears to be a widespread reaction- there are now hundreds of research articles about the positive effects of exposure to the outdoors on health and wellness.
In this age of technology and indoor entertainment, many humans have been spending more time on electronics and less time outside. Although the advancement of technology has many benefits for our society, even some helping save nature, it is important to maintain a balance and explore our natural instincts and return to the wild.
At Woodland Dunes, we make it our responsibility to help others fall back in love with nature. We have programs that inspire adults to notice their surroundings and take care of nature. The program that inspires me the most is called “Raising a Wild Child” where we sync into young children’s natural curiosity and build a foundation for biophilia. In this program we mentor young children and their caregivers to be playful scientists as they learn to use their science tools, which are their ears, eyes, nose, and hands to explore their world outside. It is amazing to see curiosity and wonder through these young children’s eyes when they watch birds swooping in the sky, or when they examine animal tracks in the snow and realize, “Wow! We live in the same place as these animals!”
These children have inspired me to use my curiosity to explore the amazement of wildlife. Because of this, I believe the first step to becoming a nature-loving society is starting with this young generation. Embrace your inner wild child, and enjoy nature!