Connecting with Nature: Work Becomes Play

Larvae adjusting as we move his wood home to a new pileI recently participated in a family work day at my son’s pre-school. The event provides an opportunity for parents to enhance and improve the school environment and get to know other families in the process.

While I love the spirit of the event, I was not looking forward to participating on this particular day. Each of our three kids had soccer games that morning, one right after another. It meant dividing and conquering:  me attending the 8 a.m. soccer game with our middle child and Dad taking the youngest and oldest children to their games at 9 and 11 a.m.

Thankfully, it was a relatively warm morning for March; spending it on the soccer field gently eased me into the day. By the time the game ended around 9 a.m., I was feeling awake and energized, though still not looking forward to the work party.

Mo Jo and I headed home to grab a bite to eat, change into work clothes, and head over to the school. I gave Mo Jo the option of joining her siblings and Dad at the other soccer games, or heading to the school with me. When she chose to join me, it helped me to shift my own attitude. By the time we pulled into the parking lot at the school, we were both geared up to work.

We began attacking a mulch pile that had been dumped on a section of lawn a couple of years ago and had virtually  become a solid chunk. With rakes, pitchforks, and some help from another parent, we chipped away at the pile, filled wheel barrels, and carted the mulch over to the outdoor classroom where it was needed.

As we neared the bottom of the pile, earthworms wriggled and squirmed, trying to nestle their way back into the deep, damp, dark earth. Mo Jo began to collect them in a special spot so that “they could form a family.” A short while later, we were visited by a wolf spider, the largest spider I had ever seen at about 2.5-3 inches.

After about a dozen trips, we were on to the next task: filling a wheel barrel with gravel that Mo Jo then used to level a section of the parking lot that becomes an enormous puddle each time it rains. She carefully raked the gravel until the uneven area was level. The pride she showed in her work was priceless!

Although the day began to feel steamy, the thick cloud cover and slight mist made it an ideal day to work outside. Even later, as the rain came, we added our raincoats and kept plugging away.

As we collected old branches and timbers from the garden area to move over to the brush pile and ground hog habitat, we discovered beetle larvae burrowing through various pieces of wood. Mo Jo loved the way they reached and stretched as they attempted to adjust to their shifting wooden world. When we reached their destination, Mo Jo ensured that larvae landed on woody branches so that they could once again borrow away.

Our last task of the day was to help remove weeds and invasive plants from the butterfly garden. The science teacher explained that the young tree in the corner of the garden and the milkweed that was preparing to sprout would fair much better if they were not competing with the weeds and invasive species for resources. So that is where we focused our last bits of energy before heading home.

By the time we finished in the early afternoon, I was actually in quite a pleasant mood thanks to a healthy dose of nature therapy and one-on-one time with Mo Jo. I felt energized, not only by all that we accomplished, but by being engaged with nature: feeling the earth in my hands, communing with insects, and feeling the trickle of rain on my face. Despite being continually active, I also felt soothed by the experience and felt thankful that I pushed through my resistance and brought Mo Jo with me. My day was much better for it!

Filed Under: Children and NatureEnvironment

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