With Halloween right around the corner, it’s important to remember that nature can be scary for kids.
The heart of the Pheasant Branch Creek Nature Preserve in Middleton is a huge spring. Water boils up from the ground and looks like a cauldron of boiling water and sand. The spring intrigued the K-5th grade kids we took there on September 25th and even scared some.
“It looks like quick sand.”
“What would happen if I fell in?”
“How is it doing that?”
To Sue, it was all too much.
“I’m scared,” she quietly said to me.
This was her first trip with us. I explained that we were safe on the overlook platform and that the water wasn’t going to hurt us. In fact, the water helps us by feeding the creek and providing water to animals and plants. Still, she wasn’t so sure. We stayed on the platform for a bit longer, ate some snack, and then moved on.
This scene reminded of a trip two years ago where two different girls covered their heads when I pointed out a red-tailed hawk.
“It’s going to eat me,” they cried.
I realized then that kids need teachers to help them understand both the beauty and power of nature. Nature can be scary, but it’s also amazing and awe-inspiring. Yes, hawk talons can kill, but not people. And yes, a person could drown in the spring, but not if you stay on the platform. Teaching kids to respect nature while at the same time enjoying nature is simply part of life. There are risks with everything and too often kids are sheltered from life’s real risks.
That’s why these trips are so important for kids. They may get scared, but then they learn. Fear can be transf0rmed into awe.
Kids who experience fear and overcome it are better equipped to handle what life has to throw at them. And that’s a good thing. Everybody gets scared, but that doesn’t keep us from doing the things we want to do.
What are you doing today to help kids overcome their fears?
Diane Schwartz is the Outdoor Education Specialist at the Goodman Community Center in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a free 11 page bubble activity guide, just register for this blog on the home page. The guide is full of indoor and outdoor activities that you can do with kids.