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Last Thursday I went for a walk. I’ve neglected my favorite nature trail for the past few months. I grabbed my mobile device as I exited the car because I needed to get a photo for social media. Part of my walk was related to work, but exploring nature is something I do daily. Our local nature trail was calling my name. Less than 10 feet down the trail I found myself snapping photo after photo; and it didn’t take long for another “technology myth” to slap me square upside the head. . .
We keep telling our kids to put their devices down. They don’t need them when they are exploring nature. But, I was exploring nature with my device. I realized this blanket approach to technology with our kids is wrong. We’re focused on time and not on teaching them to use technology as a tool.
Here are a few lessons I learned when I explored nature with my mobile device:
Without my phone I would have missed seeing the bird in this tree.
But, because I had my mobile device, I noticed the hole and was able to zoom in and see the tiny creature. I watched the bird as she flew out of her home, high up in the tree. Exploring nature was amazing, beautiful, and possible at a greater level because of the view my phone gave me that day.
Without my mobile device I wouldn’t have been able to figure out that these beautiful plants are Golden Ragwort.
They literally lined the trail like a golden blanket for as far as the eye could see on both sides. I really wanted to know what they were.
Because I had my phone, I was able to upload a photo to Like That Flower-Garden Search and identify them right away. 5 other similar plants came up. It was great to be able to access the information while I was on the trail with the plants in front of me. I could look closely at the flowers and the leaves to make sure I matched the plant correctly. Exploring nature right on the trail and getting my questioned answered immediately was awesome!
I spotted a large snapping turtle as well.
I knew my husband would love seeing the turtle. He’s mentioned seeing them when he’s been down along the river. I was so happy I had my phone with me so I could capture a photo for him. The turtle was sunning and seemed to lay there patiently while I grabbed a few images.
I’ve often found myself saying, “Give your family device down time for nature.” And while I do firmly believe in device down time, my walk along our beautiful Illinois river trail made me pause and really think about that statement. I don’t always think our devices are preventing us from enjoying nature. In fact, last Thursday my mobile device helped me interact with nature.
On my hike back to the car the birds were really active. There were bird calls I didn’t recognize. I stopped numerous times along the way, looking for birds in an effort to match the bird with the bird call I was hearing. Technology once again helped me. It was as easy as using the voice record feature on my phone. I stopped and captured the bird calls.
It didn’t prevent me from enjoying them but, rather, helped me really focus on the sounds I was hearing. I now have the bird calls recorded, and am working on identifying them using my favorite bird book, The Bird Songs Bible.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned on a short hike. Over the next few days, I hit that same trail and had many more “lightbulb moments” because I was open to the possibility of exploring nature using my mobile device. I was focused on the tools my device has and what options this gave me for learning and enjoying the beauty around me.
Next time you’re tempted to tell your child to put down their device and enjoy nature, take a moment to see that they aren’t using their device to truly engage in the moment. I know I will.