Getting back to nature

Families can have a lot more fun exploring nature thanks to a series of free nature guides for kids developed by Marina Myra of Berwick.

These self-guided nature tours give families another opportunity to get everyone outside and connecting with nature in a fun and educational way, says Myra.

Guides are games and activities that take participants through a nature area in Kings County to solve clues and figure out a mystery. Throughout the guide, there are also fun facts, links to learn more and games and activities to try. The guides also include a list of materials needed to complete the hunt, as well as directions on how to get there.

“These games help you explore nature in a fun, new way,” says Thomas Duke, 10, who used one of the guides with his family.

So far, Myra has created five games for Kings County to explore the Kentville Ravine, Lockhart Ryan Park in New Minas, McMaster Mill Trail in Greenwood, Miners Marsh Trail in Kentville, and the Wolfville Millennium Trail.

The idea for the guides came from a training session that Myra participated in a few years ago through Hike Nova Scotia on re-connecting people with nature.

During the workshop, Myra received a self-guided adventure book for the trails in Halifax that got her really excited. The book, called Earth Adventures in the Halifax Region, was written by Alan Warner, Janet Barlow and George Taylor. It walks participants through magical, fun adventures on the trails and educates about the environment along the way.

“I just knew that this approach to nature education for families would be perfect for the trails in Kings County as well,” says Myra.

Educating families about nature is what Myra does. Her love of nature began as a child playing in the woods then having amazing biology and geology teachers in high school, she says. From there, Myra completed her Master’s degree in biology at Acadia and recently completed her Bachelor of Education there as well.

Currently, Myra is partnering with Judy Lipp, Emily LeGrand and Kentville Recreation to bring Flying Squirrel Adventures to the Kentville Ravine, a free monthly outdoor program for young and old in the Valley. She also delivers some school-based activities and diversity days through her Wild Roots Nature Education Centre in Berwick. Through this, she develops professional development sessions for teachers to give them tools and tips for teaching in and with nature.

This nature-based education is needed. The truth is, people are spending less time in nature.

“I do know as a parent and teacher, that kids have too much indoor time,” says Myra. “There are many indoor technological enticements and distractions that were not around 30 or so years ago when I was growing up.”

Many parents are wringing their hands and wondering why kids are not getting outside and trying to figure out what to do since they remember their own childhood and couldn’t imagine not getting outside at that age, says Myra.

Youth, and adults need to get outside and learn about nature for many reasons including for mental health, exercise, imagination, fun, and to learn about the world and environment, explains Myra.

Myra’s hope is that with these guides, people will spend more time outside with their families in nature and learning together.

Her main motivation for being a nature educator is to help people understand their role as part of nature and help foster a love for nature so that people make good, kind and generous decisions for the environment as they get older.

“We are not separate from nature no matter how far we try to distance ourselves through the comfort of technology,” she says.

People need to be aware of our role and that everything we do has an impact.

“But knowledge about the impacts and scientific facts doesn’t change attitudes. People first need to care about what happens and that is why we need to re-connect ourselves, heart, mind, body and spirit, with nature,” she says.

The creation of these Nature Trail Guides was supported by the Blomidon Naturalist Society and the NS Department of Culture and Heritage, with editing help from Dr. Alan Warner in the Department of Community Development at Acadia.

These nature trail guides are available to download for free on the Kings County Recreation website.