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

Our connection to nature

Fall 2013 007Even if nature is the background of our wedding pictures, it is still important not to lose this connection. Here’s a photo that I took today of a beautiful bride and groom and their best men and bridesmaids. They made the effort to come to the park, walk on the rocks and grass on their wedding day to take pictures in this old park, where the trees are magical and the river is wild after a rainy night. They’re creating their own ‘memories’ of being in nature, breathing in fresh air, and walking relax.

I know with technology, you might not even needed to come all the way to the park to make it the background of your photos … but I’m sure the experience for this group of people could’ve not been the same.

Thank you for making our park so romantic, elegant, and unique today.


City parks and wilderness

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It often amazes me to observe people’s reactions and responses to wild surprises in their urban environments. To see a curious raccoon slowly walking up a busy street, a deer passing by a back yard, or a butterfly flying low. Many often pause: these animals don’t  usually show up on our over crowded  streets with heavy traffic and busy people. But when they do, it’s hard  not to see them, not to ask what they are doing here, in our/people’s territory. Our short pauses are important  … curious observations are even more valuable. Environmentalists believe “finding joy in just looking at animals allows us to have the patience to observe them long enough to see something of interest to science.” One doesn’t have to be a professional to appreciate their beauty, to look them curiously, to have a desire to get closer or even touch them … to feel happy that they are there, we’re not after all that lonely in this busy place.

No wonder that many adults and children stopped at this big puddle left from last night rain on a beautiful Sunday morning to express their surprise at seeing a snapping turtle in the middle of a city park on a busy morning.

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A body in search of …

Feb 2013 045Children cannot resist snow. Their whole body is searching for sensory experiences. Curious eyes follow snowflakes as they fall on one’s jacket, a wide open mouth desires to taste the coldness, hands design snowmen, feet stomp, and the body makes a snow angle. What’s the magic? The texture, the temperature, the color, the shape, or the power of changing the color of a city, slowly but steadily.

The beautiful silence that snow  gifts to a city reminds me of the mornings and evenings that I walked on snow in my home town … when whiteness embraced me

Biophilia  suggests our innate affinity for nature … but this love and attachment need to be encouraged, supported, strengthened, and role modeled … or it can get lost in the business of the 21st century.

Children’s Direct Experience With The Nearby Natural Environments

Have you ever had this experience of taking your children or class to the biggest zoo or the wildest forest in your city to find out that all they are interested in is climbing fences, catching spiders, or collecting tiny stones?! You may wonder why you spent all the money and energy to introduce them to the wild while they were just excited to explore the regular and familiar things.

You shouldn’t feel disappointed at all. The research is completely supporting your experience. Direct and regular experience with ordinary and nearby natural areas is far more interesting and valuable during childhood. What usually takes children’s attention, makes them talk about nonstop, and encourages them to further investigate are not necessarily very complex or unusual things in nature. Isolated, occasional, and out of the context contacts with nature are less engaging and exciting, because children do not have enough time and a good body of knowledge and experience to either understand them or develop an intimate and meaningful relationship with them. Children maybe more interested, curious, and care to learn about what they can find in their school yard than some distant endangered species or exotic animals.

The familiarity of childMy daughter and her father found a 'dinosaur egg' in a ravine close to our home. ren plays an important role and also they can repeat their experience when it’s in their nearby neighborhood and a part of their everyday life. These are the key things if you wish to build on their natural interests and passions.

Do you have any thoughts to share?

Children and Direct Experience With Nature

Direct experience with nature

For some of us, this may be the ideal picture. A child is walking in a forest: the experience can be peaceful, relaxing, joyful, and spiritual; it can be adventurous, exciting, and inspiring. But it is mainly spontaneous, unplanned, and child-initiated.

In direct experience, children interact with features and processes of the natural environment which function mostly independent of human input and control, although they may sometimes be affected by human activity. Wild plants, animals, and habitats are largely self-sustaining.

Children may directly experience nature in settings such as meadows, forests, parks, and even the backyard of their homes, where there is no fence and wall between them and nature. They can climb up, touch and smell, roll down, get messy, and connect with nature through all their senses.

The distinction between indirect and direct experience is not always very straightforward. Human being constantly controls, re-designs, and manipulates the wilderness. We have left our foot print in many places: forests, oceans, provincial parks, blue sky, and genes of our plants.

Children are often walking on a blurred border.








Not all the children and adults feel the same level of comfort to directly experience nature. Growing up in a culture of fear, many of us see nature as dangerous and unsafe. Strangers, West Nile virus, and wild animals are threatening those of us who choose to go hiking or camping on a nice summer day. Instead, regulated and supervised indoor playgrounds seem a wiser option compared with the potential physical injuries in nature. Even in designing our outdoor spaces the focus is on reducing liability. No one wants to take a risk. We love our children and it is our responsibility to protect them.

But many health and educational experts, environmentalists, urban designers, teachers, and parents argue that an indoor life style and a backset childhood have reduced some dangers to children, but have increased many other risks.

What do you think? Do we need to be worried? What are some of your worries?

What are some of the dangers that today’s children living in cities are protected from? What are the  new risks and dangers threatening their physical and psychological health and well-being?

Indirect Experiences With Nature

Children’s indirect experience involves actual contact with nature but in environments that are planned and highly controlled by human.

In this picture, my daughter is posing in front of a beautiful garden that is planted and managed by human. She can touch and smell the leaves. She can carefully observe  features of petals or learn about different kinds of flowers. Her favourite interaction though is to walk on those stones. But all of these experiences are considered ‘indirect’ because ‘nature’ here is under the human’s control (add to this that those flowers and stones are highly modified and structured by our technology too). Her scooter is also decorated with images of colorful flowers (symbolic experience).

If you take your child to zoos, nature centers,and museums, these places are also designed and managed by human. So your child is indirectly experiencing nature. If you have pets and plants at home or take your children to see them in a farm,  they are still interacting indirectly with nature, because these living things depends on human’s control for their life.

All of these experiences are important. Your child learns about the sources of our food, the ecosystem, and the lives and needs of farm animals. They hear the mow of the cows, smell the poop of horses, see cats catching birds, and scare away the little chicks. They may also experience that nature is beautiful, colorful, kind, playful and joyful, exciting, and much more …

How much of your experiences with nature as a child was indirect? How much of your child’s experiences is indirect? What are some of your best childhood memories of indirect experiences with nature?

There is one more way to experience nature … direct experience What is it?