What is BackYard Nature Center?
BackYard Nature Center is a not-for-profit organization that advances and enables the process of connecting children and adults with the wonders of nature in the New Trier Township. These "wonders" include local parks, the Skokie Lagoons, and even your own backyard. The "connecting" process involves:
- Stewardship: Connecting volunteers with local nature sites
- Education: Connecting children and their school curriculum with outdoor learning experiences
- Unstructured Play: Connecting children’s unstructured play and adults' outdoor recreation with local nature sites
- Family: Connecting familes with nature in their own backyards
BYNC can work with you to design and facilitate a program that fits the unique interests of your group or class. The first step is to contact us!
Are you interested in not only having your group cut buckthorn, but finding out why you’re cutting down that invasive plant ... and talking about it while sipping a cup of hot chocolate during a rest break on a cold crisp Saturday morning?
Whether you are an individual or represent a group that’s interested in service to your community, BackYard Nature Center can help you make the connection with nature. And we will partner with you to make sure this happens! BackYard Nature Center works with personnel from the local park districts, the master stewards of the Skokie Lagoons, and community service groups to assemble and organize a diverse set of stewardship activities.
"My daughter talked about it proudly at the dinner table last night. Other parents emailed me saying that their kids said it really fun."
-1st grade class and their parents; litter pick-up at the Skokie Lagoons
“I told my friends they should come out with me next time. I felt great actually helping the environment, not just learning about it in school.”
- 8th grade student after a buckthorn cutting experience
Who ever heard of learning math in the woods? Poetry? History? How about writing a book? Or using nature to highlight proportion and scale, perspective, contrast, light and shading – the basic concepts taught in an art class? The conditions of diversity, density, and disturbance found in nature make for an ideal learning experience of exploration, imagination, and problem-solving. BackYard Nature Center can assist teachers and curriculum specialists to significantly reduce the burdensome issues of logistics and red tape.
"Using the environment as an integrating context in school curricula results in wide-ranging, positive effects on student learning ... including: development of problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making skills; increased enthusiasm and engagement in learning; ...."
-Gerald Lieberman and Linda Hoody , Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning, executive summary,(San Diego, CA: State Education and Environment Roundtable SEER)
In partnership with parents, the New Trier Township park districts and the Skokie Lagoons, BYNC brings to the fore the opportunities for children's unstructured play in nature. Whether exploring in the woods, looking under rocks, climbing trees in the backyard, or creating magical worlds with friends in a local park, the experience will elicit wondrous delights and benefits. Adults and children alike will enjoy the many opportunities for outdoor recreation: hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and others.
“Based on previous studies, we can definitely say that the best predictor of preschool children’s physical activity is simply being outdoors.”
- James Sallis, Active Living Research Program for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
And let’s not forget our own backyard!
Do you want to create a nature center right in your own backyard? Attract all kinds of birds, and even butterflies? A beautiful garden? A hide-and-seek playground for the kids, overflowing with bushes and trees? Or native grasses and wildflowers? BYNC can assist you with helpful advice and references.
There is a growing divide between people and nature. Yes, there is much coverage in the newspapers, on the Internet, and on TV about global warming and destruction of rain forests at an alarming rate. There are even nature shows featuring scraggly, sad-looking polar bears on ever-shrinking ice floes. But these are about watching nature rather than experiencing nature itself. This passive attitude fosters a feeling of despair and degradation of these distant natural area, and may keep us from enjoying the natural areas near our homes. Over the past few decades, the outcome of this gradual change from doing to second-hand looking has created a dramatic void in the healthy development of our children.
"A widening circle of researchers believes that the loss of natural habitat, or the disconnection from nature even when it is available, has enormous implications for human health and child development."
- Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
When in nature, children and adults begin to realize how much fun it is to be outside, to explore and discover animal and plant life, its smells, shapes, sounds, and colors, and most importantly, their connections with nature. They begin to appreciate the beauty, the "sounds of silence," and the special aura that surrounds them. Though they may or may not be able to describe the sensation, children and adults know full well that it is truly real, and they are often heard to say, "Hey, that place was awesome. I want to go back."