Helping Kids Connect with Nature

Amal Farrough loves inspiring an appreciation for the natural world in others. Through her work as a park naturalist, she offers students an opportunity to learn about nature through lessons about how maple syrup is made. She believes that by drawing them into that experience with the natural world, they, too, can grow to love it and protect it.

“The more that people are connected to the natural world, the more they will be inclined to care for it.”

Video Transcript

Meet Amal: park naturalist

(Kids getting off school bus)

Amal Farrough: I’m an Interpretive Naturalist with the St. Joseph County Parks. And our goal is to hopefully to inspire love and affection for the natural world — which to me is the first step in maybe understanding it and protecting it. But it has to start with liking it in the first place.

Amal leads a program that teaches kids how maple syrup is made.

(Speaking to room of students) Okay, so I want you to imagine this is a real maple tree. If I went up to a maple tree and I drilled a hole in the side of it, do you think that maple syrup would come running out, and I could just put my pancakes underneath? And get maple syrup on it?

Students: No.

Amal: We want them to go all the way from the very first beginnings of it in the tree to the very final product that they’re eating. (Outside with students, gathered around a tree) There’s a scar. See where it’s kind of cracked? That might be a scar. (Drilling into tree) See any crumbs falling?

There are a lot of kids who struggle with classroom learning, and then when they get outside, all of a sudden they can focus their natural energy and enthusiasm can be channeled into directions that are very constructive. They can feel successful, they can feel less frustrated.

(In sugar house, preparing syrup) Now I’m going to show you what some sap looks like when it first comes out. Okay, here’s what it looks like. You see that?

Student: It looks like water.

Amal: It looks like water.

When we’re cooking maple syrup, the water is boiling out of the syrup basically, turning into steam, and going up and out of the sugar house. The sugar molecules are too heavy. They don’t evaporate. So they stay in the pan. So the concentration of sugar gets higher and higher and higher until it becomes maple syrup.

(To students) Are you ready to taste it?

Students: Yes!

Amal: The more that people are connected to the natural world, the more they will be inclined to care for it. And I think as environmental issues like climate change begin to be more obvious. I mean, we are starting at the very simplest and smallest end of that spectrum. So even if we can get kids out here and they just have a positive experience outdoors in nature, to me, that’s a success. Because that is a step towards loving and appreciating it, which eventually will hopefully be protecting and caring for it.

(Talking to students) Is it banana syrup?

Students: No.

Amal: No. What kind of syrup?

Students: Maple syrup.

Amal: Maple syrup. That’s right.

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