Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Enjoying Nature Is a Lesson for Both Children and Adults

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Enjoying Nature Is a Lesson for Both Children and Adults

Article excerpt

Byline: Beverly Fleming

Introducing new aspects of nature to children is a joy because they are so unrestrained in their initial reactions. The joy of having a butterfly land on them is immediately shown on their faces. That is one of the reasons I first started volunteering at Julington Creek Elementary School about 20 years ago.

We had moved to the Orangedale area in 1983, but we were so busy with other things I didn't seem to have any spare time. Then I met Karen, a nature enthusiast with a son, William, in kindergarten in Marie Woodard's class. Karen convinced me to come and talk to the students about butterflies and, later, wildflowers and other nature topics.

The next year, her son Brian was in Joann Encinosa's class. Again, she convinced me to come and volunteer. Even though none of my children or grandchildren had attended Julington Creek, it soon became my adopted school. I began coming once a month to talk about nature: plants, animals, bugs, birds and the outdoors in general.

As I became better acquainted with the teachers, I realized that many of them were not familiar with the area and didn't really have a background in science or biology. This seemed to be something with which I could help.

Because I was a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator at the time, the patients we were working with sometimes became the focus of my talks. Other times, it was gardening or the river. As the school expanded, there were more kindergartners to talk to and now, there are eight classes each time.

After I had been volunteering for a few years, I joined the Garden Club of Switzerland. One of the group's projects is to sign up volunteers to do junior gardening projects in the community. Because I was already volunteering, this seemed like a good fit, so I started teaching gardening projects to the kindergartners. The Garden Club of Switzerland has supported this program ever since.

One year, we were awarded a grant to buy child-sized tools. We won a state award for our garden that year. Last year, we had to reorder tools and we also purchased a new constructed garden box for the children. …

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