I am bringing one of my deepest passions to the blog today, and gosh, it makes me so happy to talk about this and what it has given us! So let’s get started!
Every Saturday morning for two hours, we engage with nature through an “Urban wild program” put on by a researcher and Royal Rhodes Student here in our city, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation through their “Family Nature Club” program which provides resources & insurance for families to set up their own nature clubs (how incredible is that?)
There are story times, free play, guided activities, nature based arts and crafts and educational components, with Alex’ wonderful ecologist/biologist knowledge. Each week, we submit a journal with reflections upon our experiences as a family. For example, this was my submission 2 weeks ago.
Each week, we explore the incredible parks and provincial park areas that are dotted across our city with different units and activities. The mornings are a combination of free play & exploration, story time, an arts or crafts activity, and a biology / ecology learning component. Today was learning about wetland invertebrates and wildlife, with nets for the children to catch animals to examine and identify.
Growing up a “wildling” who spent her days in the forests of southwestern Britain, I knew that I wanted my legacy to be giving my children a love and appreciation of nature, and a sense it will always be a home for them. In any type of upheaval in my life, I always go back to the forest, and walk among the trees, asking them for their stable and grounded energy.
Standing, watching my daughter romp in creeks, throw rocks and construct stick structures in muddy mole piles gives me nothing short of true joy. But today, the gift was given to us, the parents – particularly as we walked down this path dappled with sunlight, that was lightly fragranced with wild roses and featured the singsong of busy bees buzzing away.
Pulled away from the program for 2 weeks due to death in our family, we have been scrabbling to keep ourselves above a chaotic tide of emotions, the business and administration of death and critical illness, while trying to balance work and my husband’s intense training with the fire department. Not to mention, rearranging all of our childcare so we could both show up at our jobs. (When it rains, it pours.)
We were feeling maxed out in all senses of the word when we came to the urban wild program on Saturday, squeezing it in before our fathers’ celebration of life.
There was something in the air at Pearce Park in Calgary, those 2 hours we spent in the park, much like the pollen floating softly in the air, had a gentle, restorative energy.
Both of us walked at an easy pace, as the air we took into our lungs was let out with big sighs – silent to the bystander, but a full-body experience for us.
As we stood in the dappled shade, watching our daughter wading with a net, we were able – for just a moment – to let the outside world go and enter the delightful world of chubby toes wriggling in the water and little fingers picking up smooth pebbles.
So today, the urban wild program gave us, the parents the biggest gift. As we sat at home having a cup of tea afterwards, our tuckered little ones gently snoring, we realized that nature has an unparalleled power to reconnect us, to ground us, and to steady us in the chaotic tides of life.
Our little Urban Wild Nature Club also introduced us to some wonderful nature-based books for children. Each Saturday, I joined the kids on the picnic blanket, equally enthralled with these books, which I intend to add to my daughters’ library!
(page from the book Noisy Bird Sing Along, link below!)
My daughter for weeks now has been able to respond to the chickadees singing in the trees, thanks to the one week we had a morning read *and sing* along with a bird themed nature club.
Below are links to two of the books from the program. Please note, I get a very small commission if you decide to purchase either of these books – which means the Great Maternity Leave can continue to grow and offer more posts 🙂
Have a look at the children & nature network of the Canadian Wildlife Federation
. Is there a club in your area? If not, perhaps start one. For yourselves and a few family friends. Nature is a gift & it is waiting for us, waiting to open its welcoming arms and take us home.
Here are some of my favourite resources that inspire me to get out with my family in YYC and surrounding mountains and reconnect with nature.
Calgary Outdoor Families Group.
Family Fun Calgary