Thoughtful Parenting: Take time to explore nature | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Take time to explore nature

Jaiya Ellis/ For Steamboat Today

Thoughtful parenting youth

The unutterable beauty of a blossom. The grace of a high-flying bird. The roar of wind in the trees: At one time or another in our lives, nature touches you … and me … and all of us in some personal way.

— "Sharing Nature with Children," by Joseph Cornell

The other day, I was standing outside on our office deck, and the sounds of nature were in rare form. What were they communicating to each other? Maybe one was asking, "Is spring here?" Then, another would scream, "No, it's snowing outside." They could go back and forth all day. So I say, stop and listen to the sounds of spring in the valley. The cranes are moving through the area, and the bears are coming out of hibernation and exploring for themselves. Take time to enjoy what the spring season brings to the valley.

Youth, by nature, have curious minds. What better way to feed that desire, than to discover the splendor of the natural world. It is one thing to live in a valley surrounded by beauty, but to be in the moment with nature and enjoy what it has to offer is taking it to the next level.

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps strives to give back to the natural world by appreciating the value of service and experience. With programs starting at age 11 and continuing through age 25, each program goes more in-depth about the complexities of nature and what it has to offer. The other major component of each program is the service aspect of giving back to a community in which nature is a partner in our everyday lives

RMYC youth participants earn value and pride for their community by picking up trash in the downtown Steamboat area, as well as watering, measuring and evaluating previous ReTree plantings or gardening at Carpenter Ranch Nature Conservancy.

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Youth participants also work to beautify the city tree grates on Lincoln Avenue and work on Spring Creek trail, so hikers and bikers can enjoy being in the natural world, as well. Young adult crews spend more time in the backcountry of Northwest Colorado and serve by building and maintaining trails, bridges, fences, campgrounds and parks, as well as undertaking watershed restoration, beetle kill mitigation, hazardous fuels reduction and historic structure preservation.

Another RMYC program that offers experience based in the natural world is Yampa Valley Science School. Each September, all Routt County sixth-grade students (about 275) and 25 high school students participate in an experiential program that incorporates a five-day, three-night residential educational curriculum, culminating with a conservation service project. One hundred percent of the high school volunteers reported they enjoyed being outside, and 90 percent of sixth graders said they enjoyed being outside while learning about science in the natural world.

The outdoors is at your fingertips, be it a balcony, a backyard, a porch or a playground. It is a place just waiting to be enjoyed and discovered. Time in nature is cost-free … but the benefits will stay with your children for a lifetime. Together, we can give the young minds of today — of our future — the greatest gift of all: an awakened awareness of the outdoor world.

— "I love dirt!" by Jennifer Ward

Jaiya Ellis is the Vampa Valley Youth Program manager at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. For more information about RMYC programs, visit rockymountainyouthcorps.org.

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