Truly Grateful for the Gift of Nature

boy tending a fire

One of the greatest gifts in life- especially in our increasingly wired society- is to have a deep connection to nature.  In a world that’s always changing, nature is our one constant. We can rely on the sense of well-being that comes from basking in the sunshine, the awe that comes from absorbing the sheer scale and power of nature, and the wonder that comes from the complexity, interconnectedness, mystery, and beauty of our planet. Sadly, as society has become ever more wired, kids are becoming more disconnected from nature.

As a parent, I want to give my kids a deep connection to nature. I know that nature brings comfort and inspiration as well as physical and mental well-being. Wilderness Awareness School has played a vital role in the deep connection my two children have to nature. My kids have participated in summer camps, monthly programs, and weekly programs since they were five or six. They’re now 11 and 14.

Not only have my kids developed a deep connection with nature, but they’ve also developed deep connections with the other kids in their programs, with instructors, and with countless apprentices. My kids place great value on the strong community they are part of with Wilderness Awareness School.

While connecting with nature, my kids have grown as individuals and developed skills that will serve them well in life. They have honed observation skills that seem to be lost in our society. It’s astounding to be with them and to see what they observe in nature and their surroundings.

I recall fondly countless evenings with my kids whittling on our porch in the city, fine-tuning their bow drills, and working relentlessly to get a coal.

In a society that celebrates milestones with ever more elaborate events that sometimes result in us losing focus on the actual milestone, I was deeply moved when my son participated in the Fire Quest. As he prepared, I couldn’t imagine that at 13 he’d not only start a fire, but collect wood and tend his fire through the night. I was reminded what a rite of passage is truly meant to be and saw firsthand how profound the experience was to him and to me.

Each of the skills they have learned – being comfortable in nature, fostering a love of nature, becoming keen observers, learning what it means to be part of a caring and supportive community, learning teamwork, developing a strong sense of curiosity, and learning about grit and determination – not only ensure a lifelong connection to nature, but provides them with invaluable skills they will carry with them through work and life.

Wilderness Awareness School has truly been a gift to my family.  I am grateful for what this experience has provided to my children.

Editor’s Note: Steve Dubiel, father of Anna and Simon, is Executive Director of EarthCorps, a nonprofit that trains emerging environmental leaders to restore natural areas around the Puget Sound, www.earthcorps.org. Your generous donations provided scholarships to his family and indirectly supports the wonderful work he is doing in the world.