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Children Should Experience Nature

Local Commentary

Posted: February 22, 2008 4:27 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Many youth who live in and around the Santa Clarita Valley have never had the opportunity to experience the outdoors, nature, hiking, wild animals, plants or wilderness. There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests children who are given early and ongoing positive exposure to nature thrive in intellectual, emotional and physical ways that their peers do not. By reducing stress, sharpening concentration and promoting creative and scientific learning, nature education and outings into wild areas can provide a positive outlet and many opportunities for kids.

In sharp contrast, children who are not exposed to nature at an early age grow up without any bond to nature or natural things. They lack respect for the land, the understanding and appreciation of animals, plants and water. Many adults who were raised without nature think nothing of littering or dumping refuse in the wilderness or applying graffiti in some of our most precious areas. This attitude will affect them throughout their lives, and in many ways, lack of introduction to nature will limit their potential.

The Community Hiking Club of Santa Clarita sponsors a program that is designed to support the needs of kids in Santa Clarita. Our goals within this project are many, and we have a variety of tools with which we can reach out to kids. Education is our No. 1 concern.

Kids involved in the hiking club will learn about the concepts of wilderness, land preservation, stewardship, ecology, fire ecology, habitat, animal corridors, geology, fossils, natural oil seeps, local oil industry history, flora and fauna.

The opportunity to learn about a healthy lifestyle is another critical aspect of the program. America is experiencing an epidemic of obesity among our youth, and promoting a positive fitness program is an important tool to counteract this challenge. Kids who experience exercise in a natural setting may continue to enjoy these activities throughout their lives, leading to happier, healthier people with a sense of community, a respect for nature and personal well-being. This is an ideal form of recreation, with benefits that could last a lifetime.

We are setting up outing programs on trails throughout the Santa Clarita valley, including our local proposed wilderness. Weekday or weekend times can be arranged for schools, clubs and other groups. You can request a hike or an eco-class. We accept all ages, and we love to have parents, teachers, club leaders and counselors tag along as well. It's great to see the kids get out there in nature! The highlight of a recent kids' hike was the grand discovery of a Pacific Chorus Frog that the kids nicknamed "Carlos."

We'd love to have you join us! E-mail the Community Hiking Club today to book a hike or eco-trail class in your area. Let your friends, teachers, and club leaders know about our program. Your kids will thank you for it!

For more information, visit www.communityhikingclub.com or e-mail me at zuliebear@aol.com.

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is a Santa Clarita Valley resident, volunteer, and leader of the SCV Community Hiking Club. Her column represents her own opinions, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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