Kaplan says, “Youth might be more attracted to environments that afford opportunities for independent action … and for gaining respect from peers and community.” How can I offer natural settings that offer my 12-year-old daughter opportunities for making choices and displaying competence?

1This spring the biggest desire and motivation of Rauz to be outdoors, to walk or bike in nature is to photograph. I say, “Ruaz I found these lovely flowers. You need to see them to take a photo.” She responds positively as she loves to photograph those flowers and also to post them on her Instagram page. The combination of her love for photography and having a strong Instagram presence/identity keeps her connection to nature live and meaningful.

In our nature walk, she initiates the activities and I’m learning to listen and observe her to see what is meaningful and satisfying to her. Often in our beautiful flower scavenger hunt, we talk about the power of nature, its beauty, its magic. We might see human’s ugly foot print or we may just bring it up to remind ourselves that this powerful beauty at the same time is very fragile. I believe such emotional and cognitive moments in the natural environments of our everyday lives would deeply touch her heart and mind to encourage meaningful actions. After all, youth needs to demonstrate competence and show one is valued by one’s groups.

We took our ipod with us …

INature walk 001 need to admit that a digital camera is a digitalized technology that I have less concerned about and even encourage my daughter to bring with when we go out for a walk in ‘nature.’ But when she asks to bring her ipod touch, I often say no and feel that it’s going to get all her attention and dominate our experience in nature.

So when we went for a walk in a natural trail close to our city apartment on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I was not very happy to see my daughter was holding her ipod, in its beautiful blue case that looks like a fancy little purse with her. But parents always compromise.

While we were entering the trail I told my daughter that I’ve not been posting on my blog for a long time and asked her for ideas to write about. Suddenly my husband noticed a tiny white dot in the blue sky right beside the moon. Yes, it was a satellite moving fast and close to the earth. “Look at that satellite Rauz!” I said. Holding her ipod towards it and with a happy gesture, Rauz cried with excitement, “Oh, I have to tell it thank you for my ipod and the internet!”

So I decided to stay positive and be thankful for the ipod and its possibilities in adding joy to our walk.

Nature walk 004 Our young children are growing up in a digital culture where you can take a photo with many devices while ‘real’ cameras are becoming less visible and relevant. So although I kept reminding her that I brought my very great digital camera  and she can use it, she was more excited in trying her own ipod where manipulating the photos and videos are so easy, interactive, and fun.

 

Nature walk 006Her ipod offered many opportunities for paying close attention to microscopic details in nature and taking photos with various purposes (such as, to show daddy, to share with friends, to use to make a video later, to add special effects and make funny pictures, to revisit those photos at home for further conversation about our experience and then plan for our future walks).

Nature walk 009Many of us agree that these small devices are multipurpose and very easy to work with comparing with bulky technology of for example a camera. The irony is that these advantages are sometimes the problem! We all had an experience of losing track of time (and ourselves) using an app, downloading a game, exploring a new feature, or searching through the endless number of our photos. We do all of these things while talking to a person, eating, sipping our coffee, reading to our child, watching a movie, sitting in a meeting, waiting in a bus stop, shopping, walking, biking, driving, and the list is as long as our everyday activities.

 

So recognizing, celebrating, and being thankful for all the opportunities, I’m cautious about the challenges that a cute little ipod in a blue purse can offer us in our quiet search for nature in a city trail. Nature walk 032