This month, we invited Chicago Wilderness members that are hosting Leave No Child Inside month events to share how their organizations encourage children and families to spend time learning and exploring in nature. Read below to learn how the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum prepares children and adults to explore the great outdoors!
By Laura Ewert, Museum Education Coordinator
On Saturday, June 1, the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum helped Chicago Wilderness celebrate Leave No Child Inside Month with a free family program called What 2 Know B4 You Go! Our museum curator, Karly, and I were immensely excited to offer this unique program, as well as to support Chicago Wilderness’ extraordinary initiative and the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights.
Growing Up Naturally
As a child, my brother and I spent our playtime outside, exploring nature. Looking back, I now understand how fortunate we were to be given such a childhood. We discovered the grandness of our local wilderness by investigating plants and animals in nearby prairies and wetlands. We grabbed trash bags and recycle bins to form nature cleanup crews and invented imaginative outdoor games with neighborhood kids. We observed woodchucks as they searched for food, made their homes and raised their young. We climbed trees and occasionally fell from them.
My childhood is one I would wish for each and every child. It instilled in me a deep respect for the natural world, a lasting sense of wonder and a desire to protect natural landscapes.
Feeling One with Our Environment
Kids growing up today do not always have the opportunity to build a relationship with the natural world, especially those growing up in cities. With the support of Chicago Wilderness and its member organizations, more and more children and families are looking outdoors for their activities, weekend adventures and family trips. These children will grow up feeling connected to the natural world and advocate for its continued protection as adults.
Along with getting out and playing in nature comes the understanding of how to experience nature safely and prepare for trips into the wilderness. In respecting nature, we must also recognize and appreciate its unpredictability. Any venture into a remote natural area, whether hiking, biking, canoeing, skiing or rafting, necessitates basic wilderness survival skills. You never really know what could happen!
On a weekend trip, what would you do if your canoe flipped and you lost all of your gear downriver? On a hiking trip, miles from your vehicle, what would you do if it began to rain and you became so cold you started shaking uncontrollably?
Enjoying the natural world goes hand-in-hand with learning to feel secure and knowing how to survive comfortably within it.
What 2 Know B4 You Go!
Twenty-five eager, nature-loving participants gathered at the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum on Saturday, June 1 to learn wilderness survival skills from Ron Nosek and Tim Cronin, two exceptional instructors from Nature Education Programs, Ltd. The What 2 Know B4 You Go! TM program is intended for families and individuals with limited outdoors experience, and we had many parents bring their young children. As the class began, Ron, an experienced outdoorsman with a gentle and thoughtful disposition, shared the tragic story that inspired him to offer classes on wilderness preparedness and survival skills. His and Tim’s goal is to provide information that will give adults and children self-confidence in remote natural areas, as well as necessary skills for surviving outside if needed.
Both children and adults listened intently and responded passionately to six true life stories of fishermen, hunters, backpackers, hikers and scouts, who all experienced life-threatening situations in wild environments. Ron and Tim choose to communicate their survival tips and rules through short stories that deeply affect them, and I know each one impacted me just as profoundly. Kids and their parents excitedly offered solutions to the situations set up in each story and then awaited Ron’s knowledgeable responses.Together, we created wilderness rules and basic tips as well as compiled a survival kit.
The most memorable part of this three-hour event was the shelter-building and fire-starting segment.Tim shared with us the “rule of 3’s,” which shocked many of us. While we can survive for three weeks without food and three days without water, humans can only withstand unprotected cold for three hours! Hypothermia is fatal in a matter of hours. This means that creating a shelter from the elements, along with starting a fire, is most important when lost or stranded in the wilderness. Ron, with the help of the kids, constructed a makeshift shelter from tree branches and sticks. The kids were wholly absorbed by this (life-saving) activity and had so many insightful questions about the steps for building and sleeping within the leaf-filled hut. Ron and Tim had all of the children actively participating; they were running across the university’s campus in search of branches, working together to form a shelter and taking turns testing out what they had fashioned. The adults appeared to appreciate this activity just as much as their children. Ron also showed us different techniques for starting a fire. The bow drill method was grueling, but, again, the process enthralled the children.
As the day came to an end, our presenters left us with a positive story of going off into nature, coming us against unpredictable obstacles, and confidently persevering. One of their key wilderness rules is simple: don’t give up! And with Ron and Tim’s generosity, all who attended left feeling more self-assured and properly equipped to safely explore and enjoy nature.