In the digital age we live, it is more frequently that the youth of our future generations wipe the grime from their handheld screens than from their own faces. With technology at the epicenter of advancement, it figures that kids with the accessibility to systems, programs, and technology are geared, purposefully, towards a more fulfilling future. Wherein tech seems to simply educate, nature nurtures. The children of tomorrow still need to run through the parks and haphazardly toss themselves down the soft hills. They need to simply play outside.
“Kids need to play so much, get involved in the natural world, and get dirty,” said Executive Director of Nature Vision Ginny Sanchez Ballard. Sanchez Ballard has been with Nature Vision for over 12 years. The group began originally as the King County Nature Connections program but in 2003 budget cuts nixed the program, making it so dedicated members of the staff transformed the operation into the non-profit organization (501C3) it is today. The non-profit is an environmental education organization that allows experiential, place-based nature programming directly to schools and local greenspaces. Their mission reads that Nature Vision, “…fosters appreciation and stewardship of our environment by educating and connecting community to the world around us. We envision an inspired and connected culture where everyone makes choices for a sustainable future.” They do this by providing students the best connections with nature through fundamental, immersive education: be that in the classroom or in the middle of a park.
The program, which initially included King County schools, now reaches into Snohomish County and in 2018 was able to work with more than 70,000 students. The students themselves span from seniors in high school to wee ones not yet enrolled in kindergarten. Nature Vision facilitates the student’s access to nature and scientific concepts and helps the students cultivate an ability to develop their interests in the natural world.
Nature Vision’s programs range from more traditional field trips to immersive classroom experiences. While the organization is based in Woodinville in the Brightwater Center (22505 State Route 9 SE Woodinville, WA 98072) the non-profit is an outreach program that focuses on bringing science and nature education curriculum free-of-charge to schools across 18 districts. Nature Vision instructors can lead hour-long sessions in the classroom focused on biodiversity, ecosystems, and several others through their Nature in the Classroom program. Another of their phenomenal programs consists of the forming of what they call a Blue Team. The Blue Team participates in stewardship projects in their communities that relate to things like invasive plant removal, native plant restoration, or planting waterwise garden, among others.
Nature Vision also offers Nature Vision Preschool at Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park in Redmond. This is a nine-month program that provides a completely nature-driven education and atmosphere. The play-based experiential learning environment aims at sustainable culture in the community. Located in the bucolic setting of a mixture of forest and farm, the program weaves the development of young students through all of their emotions: mental, physical, and emotional. Enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year begins Tuesday, January 22 at 10:00 A.M.
The 2018 year has been tremendous for Nature Vision. They have been able to help more children in more communities experience the wonders of the natural world than ever before. Their work is being embraced because parents, teachers, and staff are feeling the absolute need to connect our youth with the natural world. Moreover, they are looking to teach tomorrow’s leaders that the world is soft, pliable, and will fall, falter, and deteriorate if not cared for properly. Nature Vision is happy to exponentially grow through their own success but are fully understanding that the increase of awareness throughout the communities in which they serve will better allow them to reach more children faster. With more funds comes more free programming for kids who need it most. In an era that proudly preaches equitable education, it becomes paramount that those who do not have the opportunity to learn about the world on which we stand cannot learn because their education is an impossibility insofar as it is underfunded and ignored.
“Sometimes people forget how powerful the youth are,” said Sanchez Ballard.
Learn more about Nature Vision at https://naturevision.org/