Hi....I tried to post to you the other day...and somehow it was lost. So I try once again. Thank you for asking your question about what made a difference in our lives...what directed us to environmental education. As a child...I lived in urban Philadelphia, a row house in North Philadelphia. There were some places to play...like the park around the block, and while it was filled with trees, many of them Sycamore, while I identified with that space and place it was something my mother did that made a supreme difference in my life. She went to our counselor at my elementary school and asked if he had any suggestions to take me away from the hot, urban summer and would get me outside of Philadelphia. He suggested a camp that was 32 miles outside of the city, then a rather rural area. At 8 years old it was a bit scary...but we went by train and walked through two rather daunting railroad tunnels to camp. It was green, inviting...but for an 8 year old it was the first time I had been away at home. The next year however...three weeks in the country side was amazing...swimming, creeking, and many opportunities to try things. The cost was amazingly affordable though in the 1950's-1960's $25 for three weeks, an overnight camp with good food...still was a stretch. The Camp, Paradise Farms was created by some very wealthy Philadelphia women who thought it essential to provide experiences for underprivileged children to spend time in nature. That idea I did not know when I was a child...but from 8 years old until my last years as a counselor at the camp when I was 18, it made such a difference in my life. There were amazing counselors there who loved what they did...one, a biologist who was working on a doctorate at the University of PA. He was magical...in bringing us to a stream or creek...to the woodland....and his enthusiasm was contagious. That not withstanding, there were so many opportunities for us at camp...that I look at those times as being seminal in my professional work. It took a while...but I found environmental education as something akin to camp...it brought everything together...school subjects...but it piqued my interest to such a degree that I wound up directing a Center for Environmental Education and becoming engaged with the North American Assoc. for Environmental Education. I have never regretted it...but now I am retired....I miss the classes we had at the USFS facility, Land Between the Lakes. We took students to explore nature and make connections to the natural world and to school subjects they were going to teach. Funny enough...Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods...confirmed in my mind the need for all of us to have time in nature...and all of our classes took place in nature...one in Austria on environmental sustainability. I learned as a teacher and a student the importance of being outside...and camp gave me that great beginning. I often asked my undergrads...what they liked about elementary school the most...more than 90 percent suggested being outside was essential and what they liked the most. A confirmation of what Rich Louv's work suggested to us all. I am grateful to several persons who made my camp experience possible - Ms Alexia, Ms. Smith and one of the founders, Fanny Mae Weitzel...in addition to my mother and school counselor.
One last reflection...in the summer at Paradise Farms...the creek and the valley that accompanied it....at dark...was alight with fireflies....it was so magical....it was an amazing picture...still in my mind...lo so many years since that time. That valley was like a huge Christmas tree...with small LEDs...and that was way before an LED. But I can see those fields....and to this day I think of how it captured my awe.