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Embracing Nature in Times of Stress

We are all feeling the stress of the unknown, in the face of the drama surrounding the pandemic. Children are not in school and are running out of things to do to pass their time, adding even more stress. For those without children, regular activities have been canceled and favorite places to visit are closed. We are encouraged to stay home, as much as possible.

As a good friend said, we are all in this together and should find ways to help each other get through it … and we will! For my part, here are a few suggestions for challenging your young ones or yourself, to get outside to find a bit of comfort from nature.

    • Get yourself and your kids up at the crack of dawn and enjoy the morning cacophony – the mixture of bird songs, as they wake up this time of year and begin their quest for mates. How many songs can you detect?


    • Missed the cacophony? OK, you laggards, sit for a minute at a time during the day and listen for bird songs and calls in your yard. Close your eyes so that you can concentrate on hearing instead of seeing. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website will help you link birds and their songs Repeat throughout the day to discover how bird activity changes.


    • Get your hummingbird and seed feeders out and watch what shows up.


    • Not keen about birds? Send your kids out for a walk in your yard or neighborhood and have them make a leaf collection of trees and shrubs. Make it a game and see who can find the most kinds. Collecting leaves is OK, but only one, please.


    • Don’t forget your wildflowers! Spring flowers are at their peak.


    • Want to learn what those leaves or flowers are? Register with iNaturalist (it’s free) – one of the best online sites for recording and learning about all things nature. Go to the website and view the easy to understand tutorials and install the app on your phone. Then take good photos and ask for an ID. Kids will love it because it is online!!!


    • Spiders, bugs, lizards, and all living things can also be recorded on your iNaturalist account. Finding out what things are can become a quest for you and your kids that will keep them engaged for hours. Best of all, they can keep track of their findings on the account (children need to be 13 years old to have their own account).

    • You or your kids can check out the leaves on your trees and shrubs and look for the
    • caterpillars that are chewing on them (a chewed leaf is a sign). Put them in a “jar terrarium” and watch their transformation.


    • Should you be able to do so, travel to local nature areas that will provide you and your kids with opportunities to do these same types of activities or simply get some fresh air and time to relax and release some tension. The Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail is a great guide to 40 plus local nature sites near you.


    • Need more? Plant a garden. Need seeds? Look for them in your frig or cupboard. Use a slice of tomato in a cup of soil (the seeds are there). Use those old onions, garlic cloves, or potatoes.


    Have other ideas? Post them in the comment section of this article. I will share them soon.

Nature can provide a safe place to be … to enjoy … and to inspire yourself and your children. Be safe, be well, and remember … this too shall pass.

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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