This time of year my brain starts to shift gears towards longer days and warmer weather. I’m still enjoying the warmth of wood burning in our fireplace, still snuggling on the couch with my knitting, and still savoring the tastes of my kitchen during the winter months. But the itch for spring is here. Scrolling through pictures from last year, I’m reminded of some my favorite outdoor memories. Which just so happen to involve time spent at our local state park.
I understand the great outdoors is not so great for everyone. But I am going to take a minute or two to acknowledge one of the coolest (in my opinion) resources I’ve got to work with. State Park Systems were truly made for the enrichment of our lives. And I don’t just love our park for the way it fits into our life right now. I am inclined to believe we will be utilizing this resource well past our pre-school years, through our elementary years, and during the course of our teen years. From afternoon adventures (play) to educational programs to volunteer opportunities, I’m certain our park will grow with us. And what’s more, there isn’t just one park within our reach – there are a lot! Pennsylvania alone has 121 state parks equaling more than 238,000 acres of land designated to recreation and education. Across the US there are more then 6,000 state parks which cover 14 million acres of land.
Ideas for developing state park systems started in the late 1800s. Several states were well underway with plans for parks when The Depression halted their progress. During the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is credited, amongst many other things, for helping state parks become realities as the economy found its footing again.
Today many states parks maintain a calendar of events which serve all age groups. I hope you’re checking these out if there is a park near you. Events range from movie nights to hiking experiences, exhibits to lectures, holiday celebrations to encounters with wildlife, opportunities to participate in conservation to arts and music festivals. As an added bonus many parks feature historic points of interest. Of course, there are also the outdoorsy standbys too: camping, kayaking, swimming, playgrounds, picnics, fishing or hiking.
My personal draw to our closest state park is pretty simple. It’s a peaceful afternoon with my daughter doing something as simple as sifting through pebbles in a shallow creek bed. This place is a classroom at my fingertips with endless opportunities to be explored. Sometimes we just swing at the playground. Other times we watch small animals and talk about their habitat. We meander down trails to look for funky fungi or soft patches of moss. Why does that grow there and what is its purpose? We try to identify small unique plants that may only be noticed if you take the time to sit down in a wooded area and look closely at the ground. We learn to learn about an area by observing our surrounding. It happens organically without script or worksheet. It is 100% free meaningful fun that helps us learn through living.
So today post isn’t about a new idea or any kind of super original homeschooling concept. With millions of Americans visiting state parks annually, I’m guessing there is a good chance you are using this resource too. I just wanted to feel the comfort of good memories on such a dreary winter morning. Reminiscing about last year and looking forward to this year.