Glaring at Transcendentalist images of a wooded landscape and cabin surrounded by tiny printed words made me wish I could beam myself out of a stuffy high school desk and onto the beach. Little did I realize, that at 23 years young and only five years later, I would be teaching that same lesson. This time the students and I read Emerson and Thoreau under a huge oak tree with a gentle breeze, along with a few unwanted ants. After a few dramatic shrieks, the lesson continued with Thoreau marveling at the ants who replicate human lives that are “frittered away by detail”. He urged humans to to slow down and soak up the essence of real living which for him was in the woods. Even though my students could not kick back and relax in a cabin for a year like Thoreau, hopefully my love of Nature inspired them to look beyond the text and connect with our outdoor world. My 11th graders were not the only ones studying Nature’s empowerment, I too found found myself growing with a greater appreciation for the environment. Fast forward 15 years, and life with my now 20 month old seems even more colorful. Watching my daughter Macey explore, learn and discover is pure and simple joy. A few indoor activities are great once in a while, but I knew this full throttle toddler needed a larger playground. With sun hat, sippy cup and bug spray in hand, we made our way to the Sweet Gum Shelter at the county park.
My husband heard that Loblolly Adventures started a class called Puddle Jumpers at the Palmetto Islands County Park. Perfect. Gumballs, rocks, squirrels, lizards, and song birds are unique each time we encounter them on our nature walk. While learning alongside her peers, it also provides the freedom and space to roam. We sing songs, read a story, jump in puddles, toddle through sandy trails, toss up the leaves and yes, sometimes run away from the gnats. My daughter Macey now wanders a bit more without clinging to my side, and she is so comfortable in her outdoor sensory exploration. There is a wholesome snack and nature-infused craft along with a closing song to end the 1.5 hr adventure. The Loblolly business partners, Danielle and Jodie are veteran educators who customize their lesson plans and experiences around both their students’ needs and what they encounter on a daily basis. When all is said and done, what they want most is for their students to have FUN while learning about and being immersed in nature, with the hopes that their students will have a lifelong appreciation and respect for the natural world.
While she does have to stay on the path sometimes, Macey is definitely hiking her own hike, leaving her trail wherever she goes!