Explore Your Backyard

Friends of Fort Williams Ecology Project Manager, Andrea Southworth, recently wrote an article for the Cape Courier regarding backyard exploration.

Download your own copy of the kids and adult scavenger hunts!


Taken from the Courier

Take a few moments to create a mental picture of each of these natural things: an acorn, a fern, a heron, and a willow. Now try an otter, a raven, and a bramble.

There was an uproar in 2007 and 2012 when words like these were removed from the Oxford
Junior Dictionary print edition. Although other “nature” words were added, it appeared as though Oxford University Press had decided to replace nature with tech: blog, broadband, and voicemail.

For many, this added to the debate about children’s language and the relationship between words and behavior. Will children care about nature when the words describing it aren’t commonly used?

It’s an interesting question. I grew up in central Virginia and spent summers with my grandma. She loved words and playing word games, but she also loved being outside. We explored the woods, gardened, made terrariums, went fishing, raked leaves and picked wild blackberries and strawberries. My childhood was largely experienced outdoors.

While my children spend time outside, they spend much of their day online. Sometimes, I do too. Each morning, I glance at the news online, play Wordscapes, check my four email
accounts, and check WeatherBug (and now WeatherKitty). Then, depending on the day of the week and the season, I work online, teach a class, or head over to Fort Williams.

Given the current physical distancing requirements and the closure of beaches and recreation areas, everyone in my household has been online a lot. Too much! It’s probably the same for you and your family. You need to get outside.

This is a great opportunity to explore your backyard! Even if it’s not perfectly landscaped, there’s nature right outside your door. Not only will you reconnect with natural things (an acorn, a fern, a heron, a willow), but you will also feel better. You can share your experiences with your children or spend some quality time alone. Unlike hand soap and cans of chickpeas, there’s more than enough nature for everyone!

Go to the Friends of Fort Williams Park website (www.fortwilliams.org) for a printable children’s scavenger hunt, a scavenger checklist for older children and adults, and tips and suggestions for a quality backyard experience. You can also post a photo on our Facebook page. If you’ve had enough screen time, skip the Internet and simply explore: see how many insect species you can find or, once leaves come out, how many kinds of leaves.

I hope to see you soon at Fort Williams, but in the meantime, stay well and start exploring!

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