Nature in 2015

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

When January 1st came around and everyone celebrated with champagne in hand and fireworks twinkling in their eyes, I was home watching the spectacle on tv and telling myself that 2015 would be different. Different in the many ways I’ve thought of in the years following 2010 but never really stuck to. In most years, by the time spring shows up in green grasses and flitting butterflies, I find myself backing into familiar territory. So 2015 is supposed to be the year where I finally make at least one resolution come true. So here it is. A post! For a million different reasons. A post.

Before we moved to Seattle, I spent weeks lamenting the loss of a great environment for which I was raising my child in. Princeton was perfect in so many ways and even today, R still speaks fondly of the people and places he has come to love. Unfortunately I didn’t (and still don’t) have a driving license and could only travel to places by foot. We missed out on many nature trails that were so near, if only we could go in a car. Seattle with a  well-connected (ok, not great but still pretty darn good) public transport system held a lot of promise for increased mobility and it didn’t disappoint.

The first thing I did when we got to Seattle was to get ourselves a membership to the Woodland Park Zoo. Coming from Singapore, a 50 minute bus trip didn’t daunt me and I was more than happy to know that I could, for once in my U.S. life, get to somewhere exciting without G. The Woodland Park Zoo is all kinds of wonderful and although I have my reservations for keeping animals in a zoo, it is a welcomed addition to my monthly itinerary of field trips with R.

Before our first trip to the zoo, I googled it to check out the reviews and to get an idea of the kinds of activities I could do there with R. One thing that came up very often was the Zoomazium. Now, according to Google and reviews on various forum pages, the Zoomazium is the most awesome possum place to be. It is a decent indoor playground that has great slides and toys and blocks and climbing structures and everything that will make a kid dizzy with glee. Oh boy did I avoid that place like a plague from the get go. I was glad I was warned of its wonder because why would I take my child to a zoo only to have him spend his entire time in this amazing indoor wonderland. So for weeks, each time we took a trip to the zoo, even when it was raining and freezing and the Zoomazium promised a reprieve from the nasty weather, I took detours that would lead us to exhibits far from it. That is until last week.

I read from the Zoo’s website that they ran a program called the Nature Exchange from the Zoomazium and I was curious to find out about it. So I took the plunge and went in. Oh what a delightful mistake it was. True to the reviews, R found much joy in being there. He climbed a giant tree, sat in its crown with loads of animal babies then rode the slide down with much glee. I was impressed for different reasons. Turns out, the Nature Exchange program is an excellent tool for which kids can take in projects to the educators on site and earn points for them. Those points are in turn accumulated and can be exchanged for any nature object.  So the following week, R and I got down to working on our little project and took it to the Zoomazium. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for now.

R is really into bats and swiftly decided that he was going to write a fact book about bats. Here he is picking out some videos on bats.

IMG_20150106_170355

I had him pick out his favourite facts about bats and we typed some of it into a word document. Yes it took forever because this child does not understand the workings of a QWERTY keyboard. Why are the letters jumbled up? he says. This is him waiting excitedly for the printout. He is very very very fascinated with the printer.

IMG_20150106_184147

Being the Tiger Mum that I am, I wasn’t going to let an opportunity for him to practise his writing slip. So while he got to pick out the pictures and facts that went into the book, I only allowed him to type out partial sentences and he had to fill in the rest of the information.

IMG_20150107_120930

R couldn’t wait to tell the zoo educator all about his book. He read it to her and was rather proud of his impromptu stories about vampire bats and ‘flying batties’.

IMG_20150107_143114

With his points, R got to pick from shelves upon shelves of fossils, minerals, shells and dried leaves and many more wonderful nature objects. Finally, he decided on:

IMG_20150107_144613

Calcites! I was extremely happy to discover the entire shelf of minerals because just weeks before, I was tempted to purchase a rock and mineral set.

IMG_20150107_203657

Needless to say, I am stoked and am making it a permanent fixture in R’s routine. I love how the program accepts any sort of project as long as its about nature, how well-curated the nature objects are and most of all, I love that R enjoys it.

So R picked sea otters for this week’s project! Should we work on a craft, a skit or maybe even a short poem? We’ll see!