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A walk on the wild side

A walk on the wild side

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

If the closest you’ve come to nature lately is watching a PBS show about penguins, I want to encourage you to step out on a trail. You probably won’t see a penguin on a Tennessee trail, but there are other discoveries just waiting for you and your family. Oh, and if you DO see a penguin on a Tennessee trail, you need to call me right away so I can do a complete story about it. Some people probably wouldn’t believe a local penguin-sighting story. But blessedly for you, I think outside the box.
A recent study indicated that our country’s children are severely nature deprived. Are your children or grandchildren nature deprived? I’ve developed a little quiz to help you figure it out.
Can your children name every show on the Disney Channel but can’t identify one wildflower? Do your kids take a bath every night but they haven’t been in muddy water in more than a month? Are your children’s arms and legs free of cuts and bruises because they haven’t climbed a tree or fallen into a rocky creek bed recently? Can they name a lot of mythical cartoon characters but don’t know the difference between a poplar tree and a cedar tree? Did they make a Styrofoam model of the planets for their school project but haven’t stood outside and looked up into the sky in more than a year? Do your children think honey comes from the store and all medicine is made in a chemistry lab? Do they know how to catch crayfish or frogs? And do they know how to release them back into the wild after their investigation? Are your kids able to start a fire? And more importantly, are they able to contain the fire?
I know. It hit home with me, too. Even though we live in the country and my husband is a Natural Resources professor, our kids sometimes experience too much of life from the cushy indoors. But it’s never too late to make a change.
This year Tennessee State Parks celebrate their 75th anniversary. Join the party and take your family for a walk on the wild side. Last weekend my family and I were blessed to travel with college students to some outstanding state parks. Crayfish hunting. Hiking. Wildlife sightings. Waterfalls. PBS just shows a one-dimensional portrayal of the great outdoors. Experiencing “nature” from the recliner in your living room is never going to compare to feeling the cool creek water run through your fingers. Reading a textbook about trees will never replace feeling the bark. Learning the life cycle of the Luna moth is nothing like chasing one. Memorizing the skeletal structure of a wild animal will never compare with the excitement of seeing the tracks by a muddy creek bed.
Parks have been developed, preserved and maintained so that your children are not nature deprived. Nature deprivation won’t keep them from growing tall or going to college or finding a job. But it will affect their souls. We’re blessed to live in a beautiful state abundant with the beauty of God’s creation. Make this the year you get out and experience it firsthand. Go to and make a plan. What’s that sound? That’s nature calling you back to the wild.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website,

Published in The Messenger 4.18.12


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