Numerous studies and whole books have been devoted to the benefits of connecting children to nature. Evidence shows that environmental education improves student performance and increases interest in learning overall. Although many parents can remember long summer days spent outside, the amount of time today’s kids spend outdoors is alarming low while the amount of screen time – be it TV, computer or tablet – has steadily risen. Now more than ever kids need nature to balance our increasingly over-stimulating world and to lay the groundwork for a love of nature.
Those of us who work for The Ridges had the privilege of knowing someone who was living proof that an early connection to nature impacts the adults we become. Lee Traven passed away on April 22 at the age of 82, but anyone who knew Lee knew that as a young boy in the 1930s, he had accompanied his mother, Olivia Traven, many times as she took visitors on hikes through the unique landscape that would eventually become The Ridges Sanctuary. Because Olivia was one of the local advocates for the preservation of the Sanctuary, Lee also found himself – somewhat less willingly – at a great many organizational meetings where he had the opportunity to observe the Ridges’ founders in action. Many years later – after a career that took him to New York – he returned to Baileys Harbor where he spent the remainder of his life serving, supporting and advocating for the cultural and natural assets of the area he loved so much. In 2011, he was named Philanthropist of the Year by the Door County Community Foundation.
Lee’s story is not unique. Many of our members have found their way to The Ridges through personal connections to nature made in childhood. All their stories stand as powerful reminders that by connecting with the natural world, children develop and grow into adults who care about the environment, and will continue to nurture it.
So tell your kids to take a hike. Better yet, go with them. You just never know where those trails will lead.