Get those kids outside!
How will future generations know to care for our planet if they don't even know what's out there?
Friday, October 1, 2010 - 22:20
SEWEE: Live oaks and Spartina line the saltmarsh at Camp Sewee. (Photo: Laura Early)
Twelve 4th graders seemed to multiply into 48 as they jumped off the boat onto Capers Island, frantically started grabbing up seashells and shouted their excitement to their classmates. I quelled my urge to quiet them down and bring order back to what had turned into mass chaos because they were doing exactly what I wanted — getting excited about nature.
Over the three days that I spent with these students, I learned that most of them had never been to the beach, ridden in a boat, or gone fishing or crabbing before they came to Camp Sewee. This was especially shocking to me since these students were from Beaufort, S.C., only about 20 miles away from the coast.
Camp Sewee is part of Clemson University's Youth Learning Institute which, during the school year, offers several outdoor education programs to elementary and middle school students. Camp Sewee is located in Awendaw, S.C., right on the intracoastal waterway with easy access to a prime example of a natural barrier island. It is a beautiful backdrop for discovering the wonders of the natural world.
The past couple years for me have been a jumble of school, different jobs, internships and new places. I'm not sure what I want to do or where I want to be, and this has been my way of exploring, seeing what is out there, finding something I love. My current endeavor is leading students in exploring the outdoors to find something to which they can connect.
While we were eating lunch day one day, the topic of conversation was the latest video games and gaming systems (something I know nothing about). After I expressed my ignorance on the subject, one of the fourth-graders asked me: "Miss Laura, why has the world changed?"
I didn't have an answer for this question, but it brought up a fear that future generations will continue to gravitate away from nature, retreating from natural areas to electronic worlds. Eventually, will people have no admiration for or connection to anything wild or natural? If that happens, where will the drive to maintain a healthy environment come from?
Hopefully, over the next couple of months, I can show these kids something worth protecting for the future!