‘Nature Together’ connects children and their parents with the outdoors
Last updated 5/30/2018 at Noon
The squeals of joy coming at 92nd Street Park along Mukilteo Speedway may not all be coming from the park’s playground. They also may be heard from children gaping at the bullfrogs inside the pond or learning about pollination by pretending to be bees in the woods.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the spring, Kristin Hammer has brought children and parents together in the outdoors through her outdoor education program “Nature Together.”
Since its inception in 2017, “Nature Together” has provided Mukilteo families with a nature-based early childhood class for children between the ages of 2 and 5, and their guardians.
The program, which is taught solely outside, rain or shine, strives to get families outside and “to unplug from their busy lives and spend quality time with their child in a natural setting.”
Dan Strandy brings his grandchildren, Grant and Isabell, to “Nature Together.” He says it is something he has seen his grandchildren get more and more excited for each week.
“They know it is fun and exciting to go into nature and interact with the flora and fauna here,” he said.
Hammer, or Ms. Kris to the children, has been a Mukilteo resident for six years, and in that time was captivated by the area’s natural beauty. She has a background in science including a Bachelor of Science degree in ecology and a Master of Science degree with an emphasis in environmental education.
With “Nature Together,” Hammer has been able to turn her passion for the environment and her desires to teach into an opportunity at “instilling that connection with nature in children.”
In just 75 minutes, each class features singing, hands-on instruction, games and a bit of free time in the woods, all centralized around different topics within nature.
“(The children) remember stuff that we talk about in other classes,” Hammer said. “I try to send them home with something each class. They come back and tell me about it, like the sunflower they planted in the first class is growing, and they have hummingbirds come to the feeders that I gave them. They get excited about it, and it keeps the dialogue open at home.”
The eight-week program has excited the parents and guardians involved, as well.
“It gets them closer to nature, and has them experience what’s in the environment around them in a very interactive way,” Strandy said.
Christina Gilmore says that her 2-year-old daughter Aida has thrived in the unique learning environment.
“She appreciates nature more and she has been more interested in exploring since we’ve started the class,” Gilmore said.
“Nature Together,” has provided more than just the children with a community for learning and support.
“The parents have become friends, and they interact in nature with their kids. It is doing what I want,” Hammer said.
After all its success this spring, “Nature Together” will be expanding next fall to include a three-hour, three-day a week drop-off outdoor preschool course inside Japanese Gulch. Additionally, beginning on June 27 and running through the summer, Hammer plans to offer “Walk in the Woods Wednesdays” to keep children’s engagement with the environment high.
She will continue to have the weekly program with parental involvement, but is unsure what that will look like next year.
Hammer aspires to lengthen her outdoor preschool to four hours a day, four days a week, depending on its success. She is also hoping to connect Mukilteo senior citizens involved with the program in the near future, as well.
More information and updates on “Nature Together” can be found on Facebook, Instagram or the program’s website explorenaturetogether.com.