Mary Bures says she frequently runs into children and parents who think there’s not a lot to do outside.
Bures wants to change that.
Habitat And Wildlife Keepers, the Matthews chapter of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and several other organizations will host Matthews’ first Kids in Nature Day on Sept. 13, complete with fishing, stream exploration and hikes.
“We want to provide opportunities for kids to get outside with no cost and a way for families to experience it with the kids,” said Bures, president of HAWK. “We want to provide everything (to help them) learn to make the most of the parks and natural areas that are around.”
Bures cited ideas from the book “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, which links children’s lack of time outside with everything from Attention Deficit Disorder to childhood obesity, as motivation for the event.
“It’s affecting their whole body physically, and their spirit,” Bures said. “They are not getting out as much these days, and they are suffering.”
HAWK is sponsoring the event and plans to host more in Matthews. HAWK recently won the NCWF Chapter of the Year award for the second time, Bures said.
Kids in Nature Day also is sponsored by the town of Matthews, NCWF’s Great Outdoors University and the Matthews Woman’s Club.
Bures said she has seen an interest locally in learning morning about nature. A recent nighttime frog hike drew more than 60 people.
Often, children need only a few minutes to see the potential for play in the outdoors, Bures said. On hikes, they will stop her five times in 10 feet to ask questions or point out things they see.
Sometimes children glimpse lichen, animals or other plants they’ve learned about in school, making a real-world connection with learning.
Learning more about nature also can dispel fears of things like spiders and snakes, Bures said. “Once you are educated, it’s a whole new world,” she said.
Sometimes families come from situations, such as an urban lifestyle, where they don’t have an opportunity to enjoy nature as much. Parents sometimes thank Bures for teaching them, as well as their children, about nature.
One parent told Bures his child had been asking to go fishing but that the parent didn’t know how to fish.
As children and families learn more about nature, Bures said, the hope is that they also will want to preserve and protect it.
“We’re trying to ignite wonder and excitement about the natural world,” she said.
Kids in Nature Day is free and will be from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Squirrel Lake Park, 1631 Pleasant Plains Road in Matthews.