Kids + Nature = A Perfect Match

Reflections on a summer of being wild

By Heidi Avanthay


I feel fortunate to have been a part of the first summer of Wildlings Summer Camp, NEAT’s new nature-based camp. I admit that I fought with my doubts and worries before our first week began. Could we really do this? Would other parents see the value? Would we be able to keep the kids entertained for a whole day? How much new gear do I need to buy?

I did not need to worry. All we really needed was the forest, our pocket knives, ropes and hachets.  As Camp Leaders, we had ideas and plans for a variety of activities to keep the Wildings busy.  There weren’t really needed.  We began each day with time for the Wildlings to tell us what they wanted to do. Most of the time, they democratically divided the day to allow for all the plans of their fellow wilds. Each week brought some new Wildlings and a few returning which led to new dynamics and adventures but ended with friendships and the special kind of tiredness that comes from time spent playing out of doors. I was impressed time and again by the creativity and happy attitudes that the kids brought out in each other.

The community of Fort St. John is so lucky to have Fish Creek Community Forest – and citizens that value this beautiful place. It is an ideal setting for children to run, play tag, splash in a creek, build forts, discover secret trails and let their wild side out. We so often say things like, “Kids just need to unplug” or “I wish they could have summers like I used to growing up”. It can happen!

Before the summer I wanted to believe that outdoor nature-based programs were a good thing. Now I know it to be true. I encourage anyone, educators and parents alike, to spend more time outside with kids in free play or more structured lesson plans. Our Wildlings showed me that they can enthusiastically discuss, experiment, create and collaborate. All we needed to do was… go outside.