Ten Blog Posts to Start the School Year: Nature Education and #ParkLit

I'd thought about taking the day off and posting my next five blogs for the school year next week, but then I stumbled on the twitter hashtag for #parklit. This online hashtag book festival hosted by Los Angeles writer Bronwyn Maudlin, @GuerillaReads, poses the question: what do parks and books mean to you?

Not only does this question serve as an excellent writing prompt, but some of my favorite LA writers are participating. Cheryl Klein has a blog post up and Kathy Talley-Jones is about to start an online interview I can't wait to check out.

Breathing in the Deschutes.
In the spirit of my ten blog posts this week, I thought about how parks and books have influenced my teaching. Growing up in the middle of the Deschutes National Forest, a mile away from the Deschutes River and all of the parks of Central Oregon, meant the smells of juniper and pine. River water, wet rock, and high desert scrub surrounded me. My family visited State Parks all over Oregon, and California on summer trips. I spent weeks at outdoor school and on camping trips with friends at high lakes and on desert properties. Just like books, I grew up breathing these parks every day.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I wanted my students to have the chance to connect not only with books I loved, but also with nature. I learned that some of my students who lived inland had never been to the beach, and many of my students were unaware of the mountains surrounding our city. I began to see that I had been privileged to grow up around so much natural beauty. Many of my students had never seen a night sky splattered with more stars than they could count. Most of them had never been truly worried about being lost in the woods. They didn't know snow or lightning or thunder. These were tales of books we read, but not real experiences.

Over the past twenty years, I've tried to expose my students to nature. We've spent time at Clear Creek in Angeles Crest, Astro Camp in Idylwild, at Santa Monica Beaches, the Baldwin Hills Overlook, Runyun Canyon, and parks all over West LA, the Santa Monica and San Bernadino mountains. These spaces help remind us that even in this concrete and asphalt city, we are surrounded by beauty and nature. You just have to seek it out.

And now that I'm a Mom, I love taking my kids back to that forest and that river in Oregon, but that only happens a couple times a year. Most of our park adventures are local to the boat park or bee park by the beach. We go to the airport park or the big park. Or our vacations take us to parks like the ones in DC this paso summer.

Parks and books.

What's not to love about #parklit?

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