Inspiring Youth to Connect With Nature

by Alan Monroe

I spent my third day of life camping with my family. Really. And ever since, I’ve had a love for nature.

More and more often, I hear people talk about how disconnected we are from nature and more connected to our phones. That’s why I am so glad to be a part of The Nature Conservancy where we seek out opportunities to connect the next generation to the great outdoors.

Throughout the month of October, the Conservancy hosted more than 250 students from Nicholasville, Camp Dick and  Junction elementary schools—located in Garrard, Boyle and Jessamine counties—at the Dupree Nature Preserve. The field trips featured a program designed to foster an appreciation for the outdoors and share Kentucky’s unique geological and natural history.

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These excursions occurred thanks to our partnership with Bluegrass GreenSource, a Lexington-based non-profit specializing in environmental education, and the Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Kentucky. Toyota is deeply committed to good corporate citizenship, striving to benefit communities where its team members and customers live.

Pattie Stivender, the education director at BlueGrass Greensource told me, “As environmental educators, this is one of the most rewarding experiences. While we regularly try to bring nature to classrooms, partnering with The Nature Conservancy allows us to bring the kids to nature.”

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During the field trips, students had an opportunity to join our staff on a nature walk to identify flora and fauna, learn about early settlers’ use of the Kentucky River, create their own watersheds and inspect native animal pelts and discuss habitat needs for them.

“Many of these students have never been to a nature preserve or been in the woods,” said Kayla DuBois, a third grade teacher at Nicholasville Elementary. “From the drive in where we saw a deer, to the ecosystem walk, the kids could barely contain their excitement over what they saw.”

Parents, and even grandparents, of the students also shared an appreciation for the value of these field trips. Bobby Weber, a long-time resident of Nicholasville and grandparent of one of the students in attendance remarked on how the area has changed drastically over the years.

“It is good for the kids to see the land,” said Weber. “I’ve seen many of the wild places we grew up exploring and where the deer used to roam become housing developments. The land is leaving us and days like today help the kids to grow an appreciation for it.”

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One thing that made me happy though was when Mr. Weber said, “We’ll come back out here, and we’ll leave our phones in the car.”

Witnessing these field trips during October really warmed my heart—enough to keep me going as we enter cooler months. It was such a pleasure to see the kids connect with nature.


Alan Monroe is the Associate Director of Philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky Chapter.