Inspiring students one plant at a time

Most of the days in my almost two and a half decades on Earth have been spent between the Cascade mountains and Puget Sound. I’ve been captivated with this landscape from the very beginning, and I wish that others can feel a sense of home and connectedness with this place. This spring, I’ve been assisting the Mountains to Sound Greenway Education staff with their field lessons and stewardship events with local elementary school kids.

At the beginning of one forest walk, I noticed a 4th grade girl lagging behind with her camera, trying to take pictures of every last caterpillar. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with that; I was just a little worried that she’d be a little too focused on the camera instead of what’s in front of her camera. Later, as the class took the scenic route back to the bus, it was my job to shepherd the kids at the rear of the line. When someone found something of interest, they inevitably fell behind and excitedly asked me about it. Of course the girl with the camera fell behind, but I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me to help keep an eye out for Devil’s Club because she wanted to be able to show her family later. Not only had she become enchanted with Devil’s Club that day, but it seemed that she was becoming Kids walking in woodssomething of a plant identification wizard. She pointed out and named her favorite plants on the walk back and stuck around to talk and ask about the things that other kids had stayed behind to ponder.

I’m constantly impressed by these kids. The girl with the camera and many others I’ve seen have not spent much time in natural areas. However, they seem not only to be endlessly curious and willing to learn about their backyard ecosystems, but also eager to share these places and experiences with their families. Sharing is the critical element here. This landscape belongs to all of us and I believe that the knowledge of this place should too.