On a recent field trip, we encountered some chilly temperatures and rainy weather. I was inspired by the teacher who brought the group. When I asked if we should wrap up and head to the building, she simply shrugged and said that the kids need to get rained on. A bit confused at first, it became clearer to me as we spoke what the teacher was getting at. The feeling of a cold rain was foreign to them. Trained to shut everything down and go inside when it rains, the soggy fourth graders soon realized that the rain was not hurting anything. They would, in fact, be just fine staying out for a bit longer. “They only know how to walk on concrete and pavement,” the teacher remarked, as we watched some of the students struggle to keep their balance over sticks and rocks along the trail. I’ve seen time and time again students who are quick to pull out their phone to take a picture, but slow to interact with the subject of their photograph. While these stories paint a dismal picture of our youth, I’ve also been fortunate to see the brighter side. I’ve watched a girl pick up a crayfish for the first time, a boy watch a woodpecker flitter from tree to tree, an entire class stand silent and still for a full ten minutes, just listening to the sounds of the forest. In oversized boots, knee deep in the creek, the children go on about the business of fishing out critters from beneath the rocks, unaffected by the chilling rain.

I realized that day that I am not only in the business of educating children, but of rehabilitating them. They have been entrapped in a world of wires and gadgets, simultaneously more connected, and more detached than any generation before them. We have instantaneous access to virtually any piece of information, any person, or any media from anywhere on the globe. At the same time, we are ignorant of our neighbor’s first name, where our food was grown, and how water gets to our tap. Many groups are becoming conscious of the issue and working to ensure our children do not lose touch with each other and with nature. Getting a kid outside and letting them get rained on may well change their life’s path.

Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) Students

As we watch our children go through sometimes difficult changes of putting down the phone and picking up a walking stick, we can witness a similar change in our water ways. Our lakes and streams are experiencing the growing pains of our ever increasing demand and impact. Concrete creeks are fouled with trash, pollution, and graffiti and few of us remember what the gentle stream had looked like before it was conformed into a storm drain. Now, as we gain information and see the results of our limited solutions, our efforts are directed at rehabilitation. As Jordan Creek flows through the downtown area, the restoration of its banks near College Street serves as a perfect demonstration of our changing attitudes. Future plans to open up this hidden stream further and the possibility of a park featuring our little urban waterway as an attraction prove that our rehabilitation is in progress. We are realizing that we can let a stream retain its natural qualities and it will coexist with us harmoniously. We see, in fact, that more green and natural spaces enable us to live in better relation to our waters, with lessened flooding, higher water quality, and increased appeal of these urban areas. What may be most important to us, however, is the water we drink. Natural solutions, Low Impact Design, and green building allow our water to stay clean and clear. We are finding the more we enlist nature’s help, the higher quality of life we experience. Our rehabilitation has begun. We are learning to care for our land and water. As a result, we are receiving the benefits. What can you do today to rehabilitate yourself, your friend, or your water?

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

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