Nata’s mother did much good in the world. After she got her wings, the great hunter caught so many mosquitoes that some called her mosquito hawk. When Nata hatched from a miniscule egg, the little nymph had no wings.

Nata’s mother did much good in the world. After she got her wings, the great hunter caught so many mosquitoes that some called her mosquito hawk. When Nata hatched from a miniscule egg, the little nymph had no wings. As she grew, she changed her bathing suits often in the water, each one larger than before. Nata wore a mask with a trap she could rapidly open and close. Her two round eyes stuck out like those of a frog. Her long tail was a breathing tube. It was almost as if she had a mouth at each end, one used to eat and one for breathing.

Nata was a hunter in the water where she lived or along the water’s edge. One day she walked out of the water and climbed the stem of a plant. Days later, all that was left was an empty bathing suit. Nata the Nymph was no more. Her water-clothes, attached to the stem, looked as if they were waiting for her to return and slip back inside. Flying along the creek was a beautiful creature with four strong wings and eyes like jewels. Nata was now a dragonfly!

This is an excerpt from “Hexapod Stories: Little Gateways to Science” by Edith Marion Patch (1920). Edith was a protégé of Anna Botsford Comstock. Both women were American entomologists and writers interested in nature education and conservation. Anna was a strong advocate for nature study in the classroom. Her “Handbook of Nature Study” (1911) was used in elementary school classrooms for decades. Years went by before Anna became Professor of Nature Study at Cornell University due to the fact she was female.

Edith became friends with Anna during her own PhD studies at Cornell. Edith directed her talents to writing books and magazine articles on natural history for young children. She wanted to educate young minds about nature. Her “Science Readers” covered scientific topics for children to eighth grade.

What happened? Here we are, nearly 100 years later, and do our kids know anything about nature? They gasp in horror at spiders, bees, deer or birds and scowl at plants and trees. Nature seems to have no place in their lives. Teachers and parents, what have you done?

All is not lost. Have you heard of the Children & Nature Network? It’s been around since 2006. These educators and leaders feel childhood has been kidnapped and moved indoors. Kids are detached from the natural world. This has profound implications from children’s health to the future of the planet, but C&NN continually works on policy changes and innovative solutions.

Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). Have you heard of it? Your offspring have shifted their interests from outdoors (10 minutes of unstructured play) to indoors (7 hours in front of any size electronic screen.) Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods) interviewed a boy who preferred to play indoors because that is where all the electrical outlets were. Is this your kid? Summer immersed in Multiplayer video games and social media?

Why nature? Nature gets kids moving and makes them think. Unstructured play is a different type of stimulation which unleashes creativity and imagination. It builds confidence as they become comfortable in parks, trails, backyards or neighborhoods. First thing, the parents need to get off their social media and realize they have their children for only a few years. Make those years count.

The National Park Service asked this question on Father’s Day. How many of us were first introduced to the beauty of a national park by our dad? (Let’s include mom, parents, grandparents, friends.) With over 400 national parks, go visit the real deal, not stare at a picture on a screen.

Oklahoma has 33 state parks with caves, springs, hills, wildlife areas, camp sites, picnic tables, and places to lay your little heads. You can swim, fish, camp, boat or hike. Go do it.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has been connecting kids with nature for decades. When families spend time outdoors, they form lasting bonds with nature. Ranger Rick has been in action for over 50 years.

The Japanese Peace Garden (JPG) recently became a new Wildlife Habitat Garden certified by the National Wildlife Federation. For over 45 years the NWF has recognized over 227,000 certified gardens. Must be true, because the JPG is #228,826! Backyards, schools, churches, farms, parks, college campuses and other places can all become certified wildlife habitats. The Butterfly Garden at the Pottawatomie County OSU Extension soon will be. It’s fun, easy and helps the wildlife, for example the bees and butterflies. Which is why the JPG is also part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to create a million gardens to provide places for declining pollinators.

Nature. Unwavering. Monarchs have drawn huge attention to the problem of habitat destruction and change. I can see differences even around Shawnee in the way people manage their lawns and landscapes. Some have abandoned mowing their total acreage in lieu of making paths around the perimeters, leaving the wildflowers and native vegetation intact. Tell me again why you must repeatedly mow your acreage. Before you and yours settled in the Shawnee area, the land hosted a diverse range of native plants and animals. Does yours?

Nature. Sexual. The crawdads know the time has come to make hay, and they have been carelessly crossing the road between two ponds. I tried to move a few using my umbrella handle as a small shovel. The gutsy crustaceans would rear back on their tails and extend their little pinchers out wide, waving them as a warning that they would take me apart limb from limb if I got too close. Alas, several snakes have demonstrated no road sense.

Ditto for the male squirrel. I gently tossed his body into some tall plants. The young female hopped over where I was standing and looked up at me as if to ask “where is my buddy?” She sat there for a moment, then closely circled my feet. One more time she raised her head and our eyes met before she bounded off across the deadly road.

Nature. Mysterious. What a wild ride. Summer started June first on the meteorological calendar, but astronomically Midsummer arrived yesterday June 21st. Longest day of sunlight for 2019. People from around the world waited through the night just to see the sun rise to the northeast over Stonehenge, showcasing the alignment of the central Altar stone with the Slaughter and Heel stones. My family has walked in the Stonehenge circle when nearly deserted. Those stones have their own atmosphere.

Speaking of stones. Will my last Easter Peep bunny ever get hard? I love a Peep that is hard and crunchy, but the excessive humidity has forced me to take drastic action. Peep bunny is now in the freezer awaiting its fate before it can thaw.

Nature: Improvisation.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Will Rogers

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.