Today we did a quick 2 mile hike at Ring Mountain Open Space in Marin County. It was just enough to shake the fog and stretch our legs...perfect after a long and slightly lazy holiday weekend. Ring Mountain (also known as Turtle Rock) is one of my favorite quick escapes out of San Francisco because it's five minutes from the freeway, has beautiful views all around of the bay, the city, and Mt. Tam, and the geology and plant life are really interesting, too. I highly recommend exploring here. It's a great spot to take kids, too. Park on the north side to head up the loop trail and you'll get a good climb up to the summit through wildflowery grasslands and California bay laurel stands. As always in this part of the word, do watch out for poison oak!
Last fall I read a post on Not Martha about her participation in the Washington Outdoor Women annual Weekend Workshop and immediately signed up for the WOW mailing list. Awesome outdoorsy classes in a beautiful place with a group of interesting ladies...in my head, I was already planning my trip there for 2014. Last week I got a note in my inbox that registration for this year's weekend workshop was open...with a twist. To attend the WOW workshop this year you must bring along a young girl! If my daughter or any kid I knew was the right age (9-12 years old) we'd be there in a heartbeat, signed up for classes about navigation, rope-making, or using wild plants. Oh well...I think it sounds like a lot of fun so I wanted to pass the word along...check out the Washington Outdoor Women website and the weekend workshop brochure. I'm pretty sure anyone from anywhere can attend...although space is limited. Anyone know of similar programs offered elsewhere?
Emma Marris recently posted an article on Slate, speaking with a former park ranger Matthew Browning and others, and arguing in favor of letting kids explore nature however they want, whether it's climbing trees or collecting rocks or building forts or digging holes, wherever they find nature...even in a national park. At first I was like, "Yeah!" Then I was like "Wait a second..."
Kids AND adults do need to explore and investigate nature. It's good for the soul and creates a tangible connection between ourselves and the world. BUT national parks are set aside for a reason. And the large numbers of visitors to these popular destinations means the "nature" within a national park is automatically more highly impacted than other natural areas. No one can selfishly treat these places as belonging to just themselves. Public lands must be shared, and they must be left how we would wish to find them.
But after millions of kid-hours of use by children gleefully doing their worst, these play zones remain functioning natural areas. The damage wrought by kids was comparable to that from hiking or camping.
Letting kids "do their worst" is not teaching them to respect and admire nature. Nature CAN be a playground...but it is so much more. The article implies that national parks are stuffy with a policy of Leave-No-Fun. The counter-offer is the creation of designated free-play areas within national parks where kids could do whatever they want to the plants, animals, and earth found in the zone. It's an interesting idea, but perhaps one that should be applied in cities, residential areas, and in place of structured playgrounds...the places kids explore everyday.
Kids do need unstructured playtime, and they do need to experiment and explore...but we humans spend so much time bending nature to our own desires, it's valuable to teach children to stop and quietly observe what's going on around them. Watch, listen, smell. Be IN nature, not ABOVE nature. National parks in particular provide this opportunity, and were in fact created for it. Stewardship, preservation, sustainability, and conservation are the words and actions children need to learn, but first they need to understand why. To understand why they need to see it and experience it as it is, not as an amusement park. Furthermore, they need to see the adults in their world respect and SHARE nature. There's plenty of wild on-trail and within the rules.
I spotted this under a table at a flea market last year. Even though it has our name on it and a "Lifetime Warranty," I couldn't quite justify bringing it home. Scott isn't really a "motion picture" photographer anyway (not yet...?). Pretty cool packaging though...I can definitely picture an excited 50's kid unwrapping this on Christmas Day.
Rarely I mention that I work in the geology department of the California Academy of Sciences. In most museums these days there's a push to digitize the collections...photograph and database all the specimens for modern record keeping and to provide global access to holdings (among other reasons). One of my main tasks at my day job is to photograph specimens within the Geology Collections (Thanks, Scott Mansfield, for mentoring my photographic efforts). Awhile back I photographed some interesting microscope slides. These slides contain arrangements of microscopic algae called diatoms. The arrangements are generally meant more for beauty & novelty than for research (though arrangements sometimes show all the species found in one location, which could potentially be useful). I posted the pictures on Flickr as usual and they've...well, they've gone viral. This week I was surprised to open up my feedly reader and see the pictures posted on one of my favorite blogs, Colossal. Woah. I've had inquiries about prints...we're looking into logistic and copyright issues...stay tuned!
UPDATE: Prints can now be ordered. Send me your email and I'll send you an order form.