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Growing Up Wild

Connecting kids to nature

Brad Smith is the director of the Indiana Chapter's Southwest Indiana Program. Brad grew up in southwest Indiana gaining an appreciation for the outdoors and conservation through his time hunting, fishing, and working on farms. While in college in Bloomington he worked with migratory songbirds in the Hoosier National Forest and decided on a career in conservation.

After more than twenty years working across the US and Canada, Brad has returned to Indiana to lead our efforts in his hometown corner of the state.

Connect your kids to nature!

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?

Brad Smith:

I work in Southwestern Indiana as the Program Director. This puts me in touch with lots of other people in the region who are interested in conservation. I work to implement our strategic plans for land protection and improving water quality in my corner of the State.

A new survey reveals parents around the world are concerned children are not spending enough time outdoors. What is your reaction to that?

Brad Smith:

I share the concern. For my wife and me, spending time outdoors is about a simpler life. We made the conscious decision to slow down after our first child was born. That has meant choosing a lifestyle where being outdoors and staying close to home are requirements; having farm animals, a large garden, and living in the country where nature is more accessible right out the backdoor. I think there is something lost when children are not exposed to the outdoors. I am reminded of Patrick Henry whose philosophy of education for his seventeen children was they neither had shoes on their feet before six years of age nor sat for a school lesson before the age of twelve. Their early classroom was nature.

Why is it important to you that your children grow up connected to nature?

Brad Smith:

There is so much competition for time these days. Sports, TV, video games, etc… We have to make conscious decisions about how we and our kids spend our time. What do we value? Are those values served by how we spend our spare time? It goes beyond instilling a love of nature. Outdoors is where they can imagine and explore on their own. They can experiment, find surprises, wear themselves out, and learn to appreciate that it’s a big world with lots of possibilities. Whatever my children grow up to be, I am certain that time outdoors will have shaped their perspective in a positive way.

How does spending time outdoors impact your children?

Brad Smith:

I hope they learn how we connect to the rest of life. Not just the food we eat and the water we drink, but a deeper appreciation of our connection to God’s creation. We don’t force nature on our kids. They just get it as part of what we do on a daily basis around our home. Though I would love for one of them to develop a passion for nature hikes, birds, bugs, or some such thing, they will find their way and nature will have helped to form that.

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