|1st graders from Hidden Valley examine a newt at Pepperwood|
by Sandi Funke
For the past twenty years, environmental researchers have wondered what actually leads to responsible environmental behavior. Dr. Louise Chawla from the University of Colorado has been interviewing environmentalists since the mid-nineties. Her work, centered in Kentucky and Norway, sought to uncover their sources of commitment to the environment. The two most frequent motives were “experiences in natural places as young people” and “family role models”. Respondents recalled places they played or hiked as children. They also talked about family members that directed their attention to certain aspects of the natural world. Research in other parts of Europe, North America, South Africa, and El Salvador has produced similar results. In 2006 researchers Dr. Nancy Wells and Dr. Kristi Lekie from Cornell surveyed 2,000 randomly selected adults from the United States. They asked them about their attitudes and behavior regarding the environment as well as childhood experiences in nature. They also found that nature activities in childhood predicted pro-environmental behaviors such as recycling and “green” voting. Getting kids into natural areas can have longstanding results.
|Children hiking at our Budding Biologists day camp last summer|
There are many opportunities here at Pepperwood to get into nature with your favorite young person. Our Wildflower Festival, held this year on Sunday, April 21st 2013, will have an interpretive trail to meander in between the barn and the Dwight Center. This short but steep walk may be just enough for the preschool set. We will also have opportunities to explore our new Native Plant Demonstration Garden adjacent to the Dwight Center. Then our three mile self guided trail loop will have volunteers available to provide some nature interpretation. For slightly older kids, this will be great opportunity to get out a little further out! Also that day, wildflower experts will be on hand leading botany hikes.
In addition to the Wildflower Festival, Pepperwood hosts monthly public hikes. These are usually at least four miles and involve an elevation change of at least 500 feet. Folks get to explore our various plant communities including our chaparral, grassland, oak woodlands, and more. The view of Mt. St. Helena from Rollercoaster Ridge is always a favorite! We also offer many family classes and events that include short hikes and hands on activities such as making bird boxes or creating nature journals.
|Mt. Saint Helena as seen from Pepperwood|
But Pepperwood is of course not the only place to explore nature. Our partners LandPaths and the Sonoma Ecology Center both lead hikes throughout the county. Additionally, Landpaths runs a permit program that allows community members to get access to open spaces newly acquired by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open SpaceDistrict. There are also dozens of parks and trails to explore run by Sonoma County Parks. The parks have recently installed self pay meters that accept credit cards and debit cards. This makes paying very convenient!
So whether it’s Pepperwoods’ flowery expanses or another nearby wild land, make sure to get outside with a young person this season. Our future depends on it!