Reconnecting Children & Nature

I love the sounds that emanate from a South Carolina State Park. Like the almost musical sound of falling water, whether it’s a cascading waterfall, the gentle patter of rain on the roof of your tent, camper or cabin or the thunder of waves on the shore. It can lull you to sleep, bring you to life, inspire you and relax you – seemingly all at once. Another sound – and one that we only hear every so often - is the powerful song of the male Cicada, which lets visitors know they’re up from their 13-year slumber. On a star-lit night spent gathered around a campfire, you’ll hear the soothing sounds of silence accented by the sharp crackle of the burning wood. And then there’s one sound that’s the favorite of almost every park ranger in South Carolina – the voices and laughter of children exploring and enjoying the great outdoors. In an age of iPods and XBox, it’s refreshing to hear a child ask Mom or Dad to go for a hike, head over to the lake for a swim or help them cook another round of smores.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and the man who coined the phrase "nature-deficit disorder," helped launch a movement to reconnect kids with nature. He recognized that children have lost the connection to nature that many adults took for granted as kids. Park systems across the country have placed a renewed emphasis on this issue, introducing programs and activities that encourage children, parents and grandparents alike to reengage with nature and enjoy the benefits from being outside.

Technology, combined with an endless lineup of tightly structured activities, has made it difficult for kids to get out and be kids --to play in a stream, walk a trail and experience nature’s wonders while getting a little mud between their toes. In this enewsletter we highlight several programs that are directed towards children, encouraging them to explore and enjoy their parks. The Junior Ranger Program, for example, is one that merges modern technology with an actual visit to the park. You can also check out our website and look for the Children in Nature logo to find other programs geared toward getting kids outside.

Thought about being a habitat hero? Myrtle Beach State Park can show you how! Interested in earning a Scout Carolina Patch for your Boy Scout Troup, or creating a “fish print” at Hunting Island? We can help make it happen. All of our programs are designed to be fun and engaging.

While there are numerous programs for children at state parks across South Carolina all summer long, I want to remind you of the best park program we offer. It’s been around for a long time and it’s pretty simple. Just take your family to a state park and “Ask A Ranger.” You pick the park – maybe one you’ve never visited before, or one that’s already a family favorite – then just ask a park ranger for ideas! They’ll explain all the things you can do in that park, as well as special places you can explore and features of the park that make it so special. Chances are you’ll see things you never dreamed of while learning something new and reconnecting to your state and one another.

It’s time spent together making memories that will last a lifetime. So put down the remote and the iPod and come out and play this summer.

See you in the parks!

Phil