Local View: Hartley Nature Center is improving the health of our community
I am wrapping up my last few weeks with Hartley Nature Center as an environmental-education intern. Over the past eight months I have had the opportunity to teach, learn, experience, and explore Hartley Park with students, campers, and families. ...
I am wrapping up my last few weeks with Hartley Nature Center as an environmental-education intern. Over the past eight months I have had the opportunity to teach, learn, experience, and explore Hartley Park with students, campers, and families. I have noticed an inclusive, adventurous, and engaging spirit from members of the community.
Hartley Nature Center is cool that way. Being outside connects us in a multitude of ways. It centers us, inspires, motivates, and provides us with the space to grow and learn.
From teaching school programs and camps to interacting with the public daily, I have realized the positive impacts Hartley Nature Center has on our community's health. There is a contagious passion from the staff to create memorable experiences with the outdoors and a healthy connection to nature. With Hartley Nature Center's mission to inspire lifelong connections to nature through education, play, and exploration, Hartley has filled our community with a brighter perspective of what it means to connect with the outdoors and develop healthy, lifelong habits starting at a root source: nature.
Not only does the nature center offer educational programs for schools, engaging summer camps for kids, member events for families, and public programs, it sits in the heart of Hartley Park, a local mecca for outdoor recreational activities.
Hartley Nature Center provides our community with 676 acre of trails, wildlife, and natural land; affordable public rentals of cross country ski, snowshoe, and kick sled equipment; and school programs that provide kids opportunities to experience and learn in nature. The center also promotes a healthy and active lifestyle via outdoor events and programs, and it has a nature-based outdoor preschool that connects young children with the benefits of the outdoors at an early age, emphasizing learning through playing outdoors.
During my time at the center, I had the opportunity to connect with enthused families and individuals renting equipment, running the trails, and exploring the park with leisurely hikes. I heard excitement and comments about their enjoyment in nature, spending time with their families, connecting with the environment, and engaging in healthy activities. When teaching summer camp, I saw kids' eyebrows raise with excitement when they spotted the tracks of a whitetail deer. Their enthusiasm was a reminder of the connections with nature I was inspiring and was able to see firsthand. I heard parents rave about how their children's attendance at the Hartley Nature Center preschool developed in them a healthy connection to nature through daily outdoor play and exploration.
These are just a few examples of how Hartley sparks healthy connections and habits with the outdoors.
An important focus of Hartley Nature Center is its education of youth. Our classes, field experiences, and romps through the woods reach across generations for the benefit of every person seeking a place to enjoy the natural world.
I'm finishing my degree this summer in public health education and promotion at the University of Minnesota Duluth. I have learned the extensive list of health benefits the outdoors brings individuals. There are health benefits from even spending a short time outside, according to an article published by the the University of Minnesota. Those benefits include lowered stress and improved physical well-being, which can positively affect your body and mind. Even simply looking at a picture of greenery for a few seconds can impact a person's mental health.
Experiences with nature teach us things that tablets, computers, and books just cannot. Being outside stimulates a child's creativity, and spending time in natural surroundings encourages a positive intellectual, emotional, and physical connection with nature, according to a podcast released by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
I spent some time talking with Judy Gibbs, an active member of the community with a long connection to Hartley Nature Center. When I asked her how the center impacts the health of our community, she replied passionately, stating that, "Hartley gives people safe and easy opportunities to get out into the world."
Enjoying the outdoors is a great way to engage and connect with like-minded, outdoorsy members of the Twin Ports community. With the many hiking, biking, running, skiing, snowshoeing, and walking trails available, Hartley Park has the perfect platform to engage with nature, family, and friends. Along with the plethora of outdoor opportunity at Hartley Park, Hartley Nature Center is inspiring and promoting a healthy and life-long connection with the natural world.
There are endless ways to explore and connect with nature, which in turn teaches us to live a healthy and whole life. Through the eyes of an intern, I saw the community thrive at Hartley Nature Center. From toddlers to grandparents, connecting with nature never weakens.
Although my time at Hartley Nature Center is coming to a close, I take with me countless memories of nature discoveries and moments seeing inspired young minds connecting with nature. I'm excited to see just how much the Hartley Nature Center spirit continues to grow in the Duluth community.
Katelyn Kammer started an internship in January at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. She graduated in May from the University of Minnesota Duluth and is completing final credits this summer for a degree in public health education and promotion.