Connecting Children to Nature

Memories and Reflections

"I remember reading My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George as a child of 12. This is a story about a boy the same age who left home to live all alone in the woods in a large tree he hollowed out with fire. After reading that book, I created my own "homes away from home." I set up a cozy bed near a stream that ran through the woods behind my house. I had my books and my journal and I spent many nights there, falling to sleep to the sounds of the water. The big adventure was when I packed up my gear, hiked up into the hills, and set up camp in a small grove of trees about a mile away. I even made my own walking stick, complete with a small pouch
tied on, and my own little day pack! I built a small fire to cook dinner, looked at the stars, and thought about other excursions I would take someday. I loved the feeling of self sufficiency I experienced and the idea of "living off the land." I think that Bradford Angier's book, How to Stay Alive in the Woods, was popular at that time, and I had been reading about creating shelters and finding wild edible plants. I did make some salad with the common Miner's Lettuce and some wild rosehip tea. I was glad I had my macaroni and cheese; gathering wild food took too long! These days it's hard to imagine that a middle school age girl would have the freedom and confidence to head out on similar treks, but I do hope they can find ways to experience the solitude, beauty and self assurance that being "at home" in nature provides."
Janet Ady: NCTC employee

"I read Wind and the Willows in fifth or sixth grade, and encountered Kenneth Grahame’s lovingly detailed descriptions of woods and water.  It was thrilling to discover that he had actually put into words some of the thoughts and feelings that I’d had while exploring the outdoors.  My favorite place was the nearby creek, where I spent hours observing water striders, smelling mud, and enjoying the mesmerizing reflections and soothing sounds."
Anne Eden: Shepherdstown Public Library Children's Librarian

"I enjoyed Summer of the Falcon so much that I checked out all of Jean George’s other wildlife books…Since I was raised in an eastern 'outdoors' family to begin with, I related to her wildlife stories that revolved around the farms and fields of the Maryland – Delaware area."
Glenn Gravett
: NCTC employee

Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn) were a couple of my favorites.  I grew up on a small farm on the "riverfront" (actually a saltwater tidal estuary), had my own rowboat, and dreamed about the adventure chronicled by Samuel Clemens. 
Jim Willis: NCTC employee

"But what connected me to understanding something about nature was the type of animals in the book [Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett]. I had always been timid around large animals (even large dogs), but seeing the way Annie acted with them made me aware that I shouldn’t be frighened of them, but I should love them, as Annie did."
Anya Wallace (age 14)

"After walks in the woods with my mother, I would almost always return home with a little sliver of the wild either in my pocket or clutched in a dirty palm.  I would collect a few smooth pebbles, an autumn–ravished leaf, or a handful of acorns.  These little treasures would gather in little caches around my room – pockets of the outdoors I had brought inside.  Just like the boy in The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer, I wanted my two worlds to be one - the allure of the woods was always calling me."
Eliza Wallace (age 18)

"We didn't have a river, but we did have a creek that ran past our little one-room country school house, and in retrospect I think it was friendlier, certainly less intimidating than a river would have been.  A lea was a pasture land for horses and cattle, whether on a hillside or in the valley.  I don't remember a hazel bank, but hazelnuts grew there, along with abundant pawpaws and American chestnuts.  For a second- or third-grader, reading this poem [A Boy's Song by James Hogg], with its dancing, almost galloping rhythm, was like listening to the lively plucking of a banjo.  As often as not, "Billy," our dog, enjoyed the outdoor romping as much as I did." 
Sherman Ross, NCTC Volunteer

A Boy's Song:  Podcast
By: James Hogg

Where the pools are bright and deep,
Where the grey trout lies asleep,
Up the river and over the lea,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Where the blackbird sings the lates,
Where the hawthron blooms the sweetest,
Where the nestlings chirp and flee,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Where the mowers mow the cleanest,
Where the hay lies thick and greenest,
There to track the homeward bee,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Where the hazel bank is steepest,
Where the shadow falls the deepest,
Where the clustering nuts fall free,
That's the way for Billy and me.

[Reprinted here from Bartelby. com]

"The story, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, brings to bear (!) on the resource (berries), the relationship (mother/cub or wildlife/human), and the remarkable transformation from the fear and trepidation when bear and human discover each other to the harmony of sharing blueberries on Blueberry Hill. It is Sal and the cub who are the "peacemakers" through their innocence, their sense of place, in the "now," and their total focus which is all about blueberries. Ultimately, the jam making brings in that special family time to share and preserve the moment forever or until the jam jar is empty and the summer berry picking time comes again. "
Anne Post - Chief Librarian, NCTC Conservation Library

"I grew up in New England and when I read One Morning In Maine by Robert McCloskey, it just brings back all the sights and smells of New England in summer.  I also had a wonderful babysitter who used to read the stories of Thorton Burgess to me.  They helped awaken my love of all the fascinating wildlife I learned about as a kid. A red fox will sometimes walk by my house in the early morning and I will think of ole Reddy Fox."
Lawrence N. Uman

"I loved it when my mother read me Peter Cottontail by Thorton Burgess; it was one of my favorite stories.  I used to pretend I was a rabbit when I was watching ball with other children.  I had polio so when she would read me a story like this I felt a connection to the natural world. I also liked to read Reader's Digest Magazine; it was easy to read and there were some interesting stories about the living world.  My children loved to play outside all the time but I cannot remember reading to them."
Clyde Grubbs
- local nursing home resident

"I remember reading books about cats and dogs that had pretty pictures of them rolling around in the grass and would transfer this into how I would play with my friends. I would make stories in my head about the little creek that was located behind my house."
Margaret Ruth Guido
- local nursing home resident

"I thought it was interesting when I had to write down shorthand for Mrs. Grosvenor, the wife of the President of National Geographic, when she would come back from safaris in Africa. I would re-read what I wrote at a later time and would pretend that I was in these fantastical places.  I loved to read articles in magazines about Jacques Cousteau; he made me want to go to the ocean. Articles like these really were influential in how I would look at the environment."
Evelyn Bell
- local nursing home resident

"The small size of these guides [Golden Field Guides], the jam-packed color images, and the gratifying sensation of flipping the compact wad of pages are some of the reasons I loved these books.  The guides were orderly - no Mutual of Omaha wrestling or messy deer carcass being picked at by crows - they gave me just the aspect of nature that I sought when I was 13 years old."
Karene Motivans:
NCTC employee