A Nature Lesson in my Own Backyard

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

“You don’t care about what you don’t know.” That phrase stuck with me long after watching the wonderful video, Wetlands & Wonder: Reconnecting Children with Nearby Nature. I was fortunate enough, as well as most of my co-workers, to grow up surrounded by beautiful open spaces. There was no satellite TV, no Ipod, no PlayStation nor the Web. If I wanted to play, I had to go outside to our backyard or go bike riding with my brother or cousins around the neighborhood. Every time we left the house. a whole new world of exploration and curiosity unraveled before our eyes. Many of the activities we did as young children were nature oriented. Our maternal grandparents had a farm and from our paternal grandmother’s backyard the nearby El Yunque rainforest was on full display. We got our feet wet in the Río Blanco River and plenty of times came home carrying treasures from the beach. Nowadays, I work as public affairs specialist at EPA in San Juan and my brother works as a marine scientist at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, Washington.

photo of author with her sonAs a modern day parent, getting my kids out into nature can be a challenge. Even though I take them frequently to the country or on the occasional road trip, finding time to experience nature every day is very hard. Four children, a busy schedule, and living in the suburbs are not the right mix to provide for nature oriented experiences. Still,I carve out the occasional moment to give my kids outdoor experiences, like when I tend to my garden or let them play when I air-dry our clothes, Recently, I accidentally ran a cart over a small snake. Upon finding it, I took my three year-old son to the backyard to show him the dead snake. I ran my fingers over its slimy body and my son felt instant curiosity to know how it felt, and did the same. I told him about what snakes eat and how they hide in the base of the ginger and heliconia plants.

Kids don’t have to travel far or visit a museum to learn about nature; the easiest access is often found in our own backyards, in our parks, in the empty lot nearby our houses. If they get to know and experience, nature they will become adults concerned with safeguarding their surroundings and, thus, the environment.