Go Exploring: Kids, Bugs & Nature’s Treasures

Food Chain Fun, Billions of Bugs, and Crazy for Conservation: With names like these, local park programs promise outdoor fun for all.

And summer is a great time to head outdoors for recreation that builds relationships and life skills.

“We love the park,” said Jennifer Jamison of Garner, mom to Reya, 8, and Ella, 6. “We play on the playground, look for flowers and butterflies, and have even taken night hikes to look and listen.”

Among the latest offerings at Garner’s White Deer Park is Discovery Days for kids age 6 and older, to explore science and nature with a parent. For preschoolers, a parent-child class offering nature exploration is held on the second Thursday of each month.

At the park, Reya and Ella matter-of-factly roll a log with environmental educator Joanne St. Clair to discover nature’s treasures beneath, including fungus and a roly-poly they’ll excitedly feed to Squirt, a red-eared slider turtle housed in the Nature Center.

“It’s good for everybody’s mood, to get out of the house and move around,” said Jamison. “We have a different interaction outside together. They’re very interested in the birds, insects and plants, and enjoy science in school. We’ll encourage that.”

Stephanie Schaffer, a certified park and recreation professional and supervisor of White Deer Park, says outdoor play and exploration offer numerous benefits to children.

“Recreation is not just sports,” Schaffer said. “You can choose to walk, fish, roller blade, do nature journaling, or sit on a park bench with a book; there’s a huge dichotomy of choices, and we try to respect that here.

“As a parks department, Garner offers programs to encourage choices that are good for the body and the mind.”

From structured life cycle programs to natural playgrounds that encourage exploratory play, fun and learning go hand-in-hand here.

“Very few things have to be done just one way, which encourages imagination,” Schaffer said. “And when a child recognizes that an inchworm is camouflaged on a leaf, which it also uses for a food source, it’s an ‘a-ha’ moment and he’s enjoyed it.

“There’s science and education, a social element, health benefits including fresh air and exercise, and opportunities for kids to be creative,” she said.

For information on Garner’s 11 parks and a schedule of the town’s parks programs, visit garnernc.gov.

For more ideas on outdoor fun from Take a Child Outside Week, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *