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Growing Up Wild

Connecting kids to nature

Chris Neggers is a Forester for our Forest Bank Program. He works out of the Brown County Hills Project office in Nashville, Indiana.
Connect your kids to Nature

Read inspiring stories about parents who take time to get their children involved in the outdoors.

Visit a local nature preserve and explore the wilderness with your family.

Share our Cool Green Science and Nature Rocks blogs with your kids to teach them more about the natural world.

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?

Chris Neggers:

I am a forester for The Forest Bank in Indiana. I am responsible for all aspects of forest management on the lands enrolled in my program. I work to keep our forests here healthy, and this work includes things like forest inventories, timber sales, invasive species control, prescribed burning, and management planning. Around 75% of my time is spent walking through the woods in Southern Indiana.

When I’m not at work I still walk through the forests around Bloomington, but I get to walk with my wife Sarah and daughter Diana. We try to get outside at least 4 times a week.

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

Chris Neggers:

I agree—I’m concerned too. I hope that parent’s concern about this problem motivates them to get their children outdoors more. I think we should disconnect from television and our computers for 30 minutes or an hour a day. Once in nature, kids will find plenty to keep them occupied and entertained. I’m lucky to be surrounded by some of the most amazing forests in the Midwest, but kids will derive great benefit from playing in an urban park or backyard.

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

Chris Neggers:

So much of what we have comes from nature and I want my daughter to realize that. I hope that her connection to nature will give her perspective on how all living things are connected. Also, it is important because it is a way for me to share a big part of who I am.

The picture with Diana on my shoulders was taken at my family’s land in Massachusetts. My uncle, who largely inspired me to pursue forestry, planted the white pines in the background. I’ve slowly been pruning and thinning those trees with the hope that when Diana is older she can feel a connection to many generations of her family through the trees on that property. I know that there are places out there where I don’t just see trees. I see my grandfather, my uncles, my dad, and the work they did there. I’m continuing their legacy and trying to care for it so that Diana can hopefully see what I see.

How does spending time outdoors impact your child?

Chris Neggers:

Diana is young (16 months), but she is old enough to enjoy seeing a bird fly, grab a twig on a tree, or pick up a rock. She enjoys exploring with my wife and me, and we share in her joy of getting to see these places for the first time.

To anyone looking for a scenic place to take the kids, I recommend Hitz-Rhodehamel Woods in Brown County. The Nature Conservancy has a nice hiking trail that is great for the whole family and a small picnic shelter to relax in. Come in the spring to see wildflowers blooming, during the summer to watch songbirds or salamanders, in the autumn to enjoy the beautiful fall colors, or during the winter when the striking views from the ridgetops are best.

Chris Neggers:

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