Outside? Me?! But there's dirt and bugs and stuff out there!
Children and adults both need to spend time in the out-of-doors, perhaps more so today than in any other time in recent history. Stressed out…Overscheduled…Depressed…Unable to focus… And that’s just the kids about which we are talking. Adults are dealing with the same issues as well.
Camp is one of the places where children, in particular, may learn to not just be comfortable in nature, but to love it! At Camp Wightman, we estimate our campers spend 3,240 minutes per weekly session active in the out-of-doors, while the average American child spends just 42 minutes per week in outside play. Our campers see the majesty of our Creator God in nature and learn to appreciate it, as well as deal with the mosquitoes and occasional rainy day. Everything from swimming and games to Bible study and crafts is done under the canopy of cloud and sky surrounded by trees, rocks, and water, and yes, even, dirt, bugs, and poison ivy.
Camp provides balance for high tech young people…almost an alternate universe, if you will. Learning at camp (and, yes, we do quite a bit of that) tends to involve all of the senses. At school, one may see a picture of a dragonfly. But at camp, we see that dragonfly darting around the lake with rainbows reflecting from its armored body, hear the trill of the wings when it comes so close it makes us flinch… This holistic experience involves multiple senses, feelings, and an integration of different types of intelligence, and provides us with a real knowledge of the dragonfly, one that does not come from books, even the best nature guides.
Camp is full of activity -- we all doers. We carry our own packs, paddle our own kayaks, catch our own fish. The awe and wonder are not vicarious, neither is the risk, the sweat, or the joy of success. We value an attitude of participation and, like all attitudes, it is learned from those around us. Instant messaging is a tap on the shoulder, cell phones are replaced with a name called aloud, minute-by-minute Facebook status updates give way to the tenderness of a hand-written note, and we conduct conversations with friends without needing anything that rings, hums, or requires an electronic connection.
Through all these activities, there is more going on than just doing things. Surrounded by the beauty of lake, forest, and garden, campers are learning to be people of character, live healthy lives through good eating and fun exercise, be good stewards of the environment, know God and live out their faith, appreciate community living, and practice recreational skills they may enjoy for a lifetime.
Experiences in the out-of-doors are important for folks of all ages and should happen throughout the year. Camp Wightman offers family and adult programs, retreats, and reunions where people of all ages are given the opportunity to re-connect with nature, each other, and God. We hope to see you….in October or December or March, not just July or August!
Outside of camp our family (which does not actually include children except in the form of hundreds of campers we welcome to camp each summer) enjoys mountain biking, walking, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, letterboxing (hiking and treasure hunting all in one!), beach combing, and exploring old cemeteries together as ways to reconnect with nature, the out-of-doors, each other, and God. Granted one of us has a million dollar view from his office window, but generally all eyes are on the computer screen.
So how about your family? What can you do to create a day to day sense of wonder and awe for your family in your community? Get outside! Explore! Here are a few ideas to get you started -- most are free or cost very little, don’t require any special gear, and can be done safely even by novice nature seekers. Gather your family and
visit a city, county, or state park or state forest for a walk or hike;
take a stroll along the beach of the sound, the ocean, a river, a lake or pond;
spend time in your yard watching some bugs;
hug a tree, study a leaf, or smell a flower;
plant a garden or just a seed or two and watch them grow;
take your shoes off in the grass and just feel; and
start a nature journal -- draw what you observe, describe the smells and feelings you experience.