by Katrina Valliere, summer intern
UNION — Laughter and chatter can be heard as the kids walk along the sidewalk. Summer campers have just unloaded from their buses and are about to rush through the gates of Piedmont Physic Garden for their interactive tour. When they get inside and see all the beautiful flowers blooming, their eyes widen, and they fight the urge to run as their teachers line them up.
As interns leading the tours, Brianne and I greet the kids then guide them in separate groups through the medicinal garden. We teach them about the health benefits of plants. For example, I encourage them to touch the Lamb’s Ear plant and explain that it was once used as an antibacterial bandage. Later, both groups come together for a fun game of Plant Bingo followed by lemonade under the trees.
There’s just something about being outside. Fresh air and sunlight can instantly turn a day around. This is why it’s important to get back to nature. Unfortunately, the lack of outdoor play has had a negative impact on kids in recent years. According to the National Wildlife Federation, an increase in childhood obesity rates along with a decrease in creativity, concentration and social skills are tied to less time spent outdoors.
The Center for Disease Control and the Academy of America Pediatrics have conducted extensive research on the positive connection between health and creative play in nature. In response to these studies, The National Wildlife Federation has established their Green Hour program. Its goal is to expose kids to at least one hour a day of time outdoors. When kids create memories outside, they build a connection with nature. Playing outside also allows them to get out energy and cuts back on aggression, as well as develop problem-solving skills. When in nature, kids get a different view of the world.
Kathryn Premraj, a mother of two in nearby Boiling Springs, realized the difference between her childhood and that of her children. Premraj said, “When I look back at the best days of my childhood, I think of the days when I was outside. Kids used to be outside more often than today.” She spoke about how hard it is for parents to let go and trust their kids being out because times have changed.
Last year, Premraj joined Tinkergarten, a start-up company that hosts play-based learning classes, which encourages children to take part in nature. The program was not available in the Upstate area, so she decided to start a local class which is geared towards children ages 18 months to 8 years. Through Timkergarten, families can explore different play-based learning classes in outdoor settings throughout the Upstate.
The National Wildlife Federation lists parents as a “major influencer” for how kids spend their time. Adapting this idea in your life is a great way to come together as a family. Learning while in nature is simple, fun, and beneficial to everyone. You may also learn something new.
The Piedmont Physic Garden is a place that is committed to offering a wide spectrum of outdoor learning opportunities for children as well as for adults. We welcome school groups throughout the year and also offer workshops, open houses and other special events. Please visit our website at http://www.piedmontphysicgarden.org or call us 864-427-2556 for more information.
Katrina Valliere is an intern with the Piedmont Physic Garden.