Today’s Midday on MPR featured a talk by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. If you haven’t read Last Child the Woods, you really ought to put it on your list: Louv is an advocate of getting kids out into the natural world to explore, learn, and have adventures. And the “natural world” doesn’t have to be a national park or remote wilderness: even in an urban environment, you’d be surprised at how much nature you can find if you start to look.
Since today is the first day of summer, and summer in Minnesota really needs to be enjoyed outdoors, here are a few of the places in Dad’s Eye View that are great for getting kids in touch with nature:
- The Mississippi River Gorge: between the Franklin Avenue Bridge and Minnehaha Falls, on either the Minneapolis or the St. Paul side of the river, you’ll find waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and forest trails; we’ve seen foxes, eagles, hawks, and beavers down these paths. It’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of the city!
- Minnehaha Falls Park: follow the trail from the falls and along Minnehaha Creek to the Mississippi River for a vigorous hike. We’ve spotted herons walking gracefully through the stream looking for fish, and eagles perched in the oaks above the creek.
- Clifton E. French Regional Park: the big draw here is the rope playground, of course, but don’t forget the trails and lake! If you like turtles, this is a great place to spot them; and you can borrow a GPS unit to go on a geo-caching treasure hunt through the park.
- Mississippi River Visitor Center: as if a day at the Science Museum weren’t enough, you can use the Mississippi River Visitor Center in the lobby to launch a walking tour that takes you across the river and up Cherokee Bluff for a dramatic view of St. Paul. You can borrow an iPod and speakers for a guided tour that tells you about the history and geology of this area.
These four spots are, of course, just a small sample, both of what’s in the book and what’s available in the Twin Cities. If you exhaust these adventures, there’s plenty more to explore, including many community gardens, all of the Three Rivers Park locations and the many lakes and parks around the metro. No matter where you live, the wild world is just a few steps out your front door. “Nature deficit disorder” is surely the most curable ailment there is in the Twin Cities!