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New Mexico

Growing Up Wild

One staff member talks about the value of raising her child outside.

Conservancy staff member Martha Cooper loves giving her daughter Frances the "gift" of time outside. We asked her a few questions about this important facet of parenting. 

Spending time outside has always been central to my own happiness and mental health, and I want to pass this gift along to my daughter.

 

The Nature Conservancy:

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?

Martha:

As the Southwest New Mexico Field Representative, I manage the Gila and Mimbres River Preserves and work on science, policy and outreach efforts that support our conservation objectives. My closest colleagues are five hours away, so I am a bit of a “Jill of all trades.” I do everything from writing grant proposals to overseeing fence repairs and coordinating research.

The Nature Conservancy:

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

Martha:

It’s true. I think children spend a lot of time inside and also a lot of time with TV’s, computers, and other widgits. But it’s not a natural inclination. When children are babies, most of them immediately calm down when they’re taken outside.

The Nature Conservancy:

Why is it important to you that your child grows up connected to nature?

Martha:

Spending time outside has always been central to my own happiness and mental health, and I want to pass this gift along to my daughter.

The Nature Conservancy:

How does spending time outdoors impact your children?

Martha:

Frances says things like “I want to live outside.” She talks all the time about various animal friends. We’re often looking for a rabbit’s house or pretending to be coyote or badger. Going for walks outside calms her.

My favorite story is the day I let her have her 2 ½-year-old fit outside. Eventually she came in and said, “The (sandhill) cranes were talking to me. They were telling me not to cry.”

And I love watching her run barefoot up sandy arroyos, little skips of joy in her steps. Then she’ll suddenly crash down on her stomach on the sand and roll around. She loves soft sand.

Similarly, her first experience of big deep puddles was sheer joy. I couldn’t keep her from actually rolling in the puddle.


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