It’s another beautiful day at the Parklands, splashing through Beckley Creek with the Boys and Girls Club, exploring the water shed in search of crawdads and different fish species. Shrieks of joy and laughter echo across the creek as we ford our way toward the handy Sycamore tree root steps. The water is a cool and welcome change from the exposed and treeless wetlands habitat, where we spy special bird species like the Red Wing Black Bird, discussing what attracts the different animal species to the various habitats throughout the park. Searching eyes gaze out over Floyds Fork in hopes of catching a glimpse of the illusive turtles, big fish, and water-snakes that call the fork home. While out on a hike around the Coppiced Woods, we ID some of the more common trees as we meander our way through the single track, careful to stay clear of stinging nettle and poison ivy. Arriving at a red cedar, we take turns rubbing the foliage in our hands and smelling nature’s refreshing scents. When we come upon a snake that we have identified as harmless, we catch it and allow the kids to feel the scales as we carefully handle the snake. The children are usually surprised to realize that the snake is not slimy and not so scary after all!
Through these child-focused initiatives we hope to instill in young minds an appreciation for nature and a respect for our environment and all living things that inhabit it. Some of these kids have never walked a dirt trail, played in a creek, built a fort in the woods, or encountered wildlife outside of zoos or their pets. The woods can seem like a scary place, and we aim to show them that it doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Whether teaching them about the most poisonous plant in North America, the “monkey brains” of the Osage Orange, or the “ghost of the woods”, we share with them our love for these forests and the fascinating beings that inhabit them.
We believe nature provides a symbiotic environment for science and play, where education can become exciting. Sometimes a child’s natural curiosity takes over the lesson, and we simply go from there. Although many of the kids attending our programs may arrive timid or unengaged, when it’s time to leave, they often carry infectious grins from ear-to-ear, eager to return for another nature adventure. Their smiles and the sparks we’ve ignited in their enthusiasm for nature helps us know we’re achieving our goals!
About the author:
Warren Maddox is an Interpretive Ranger at The Parklands of Floyds Fork. A certified wilderness first responder and avid outdoorsmen, he spends much of his time recreating in the backcountry. A natural born Louisvillian, Warren has hiked thousands of miles up and down the east coast along the Appalachian Trail. He developed a love for sport climbing in the backwoods of Kentucky and the Arizona Sky Island wilderness. Warren leads Member hikes and bikes and is one of the educators here at the park. You can find him roaming singletrack trails throughout The Parklands.