Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
AS MOM TO TWO BOYS UNDER AGE 6, I have one weekday morning goal: to leave 25 minutes ahead of time for the trip to school that takes 10 minutes.
Is it because I yell "Hurry up!" a lot less? Or get to park the car nearer to the school? Benefits for sure. But the real reason is dawdling. When my son came home from the first week of kindergarten with a 16-page packet of homework, I set out to make dawdling part of his daily routine. So while nowadays some parents occupy every waking moment of their kids' lives with an organized activity for the sake of "experience," I try to make room for dawdling.
Here's what dawdling looks like. During all of October, my then-2-yearold led the hunt for spiderwebs on the walk to the school building. In January we picked up cones from the Western red cedars that line the school's parking lot. In spring I'm sure we'll scout blossoms. Ongoing: I urge them to appreciate the San Francisco Bay view they have from school – the likes of which I never had growing up in the Rust Belt. (They take it for granted.)
Turns out I may be on to something. Environmental designer Heather Venhaus (who is featured for her new book on page 30 of this issue) says making nature part of kids' everyday lives goes a long way toward helping them develop an environmental ethic. "Children who are allowed to have unstructured, self-directed play in 'wild' settings – as opposed to structured or programmed activities such as planting a tree or caring for a plant – are more likely to value those environmental experiences in childhood and as adults," she says. "And if we don't make environmental stewards out of the next generation, we're in big trouble."
Venhaus is the author of the new book "Designing the Sustainable Site: Integrated Design Strategies for Small Scale Sites and Residential Landscapes" and advocates incorporating those opportunities to get dirty and chase butterflies into the home landscape.
That's not to say all of the ways I try to impart an environmental education to my kids are unplanned. This spring we'll take wildflower drives, visit our local botanic garden and probably for the second year attend summer camp there. Last year, planting cacti and keeping a nature journal ranked above what was offered at sports camp for my athletic kid.
But if ever I had any doubt that my kids cared about my effort, I was proved otherwise one sleepy car ride home last month when my kindergartner shouts out from the back seat: "Hey Mom, look, it's an evergreen tree." "And that one's deciduous because it lost its leaves!"
And in that moment I joined countless mothers before me in shaking my head, thinking, "He really does listen."— Christina Kosta Procopiou, Editor