Editor’s column by Mariëtte Burger When kids connect to nature
One of Graaff-reinet's biggest selling points is our national park.
In fact, we pride ourselves on it. “Graaff-reinet is the only town in South Africa to be surrounded by a national park - the Camdeboo National Park." Anyone hear that phrase before? While Graaff-reinet as a community tends to be very environmentally conscious, in my opinion, we're not very environmentally active.
And while everyone has an appreciation for the park's natural beauty, few locals visit it.
Studies have shown that early childhood nature activities are an excellent predictor of environmental stewardship among adults.
And this is where the Camdeboo National Park has come up with an inspired programme to get in on ground level by exposing young children to nature.
The Camdeboo National Park's People and Conservation Department have put together an educational, yet fun programme to keep the youngsters entertained while most parents are still at work between 26 and 30 November.
The programme, held this week, saw the participating kids doing a variety of fun activities, each day centered around a different theme.
The pressures on children today to stay inside are great - the lure of electronics, the fast pace of life and the dearth of green space in some communities all contribute to children not spending enough time in nature.
This is also a problem for the environment itself - children who do not learn to understand and appreciate nature do not have the same drive to preserve it in the future.
The benefits of being in nature are enormous and include increased imagination, problem-solving skills, selfconfidence and the ability to focus. Studies have shown that children who are in nature each day are more physically active, more aware of nutrition and are more civil to each other - these attributes are certainly needed for the future of our country.
Numerous studies have shown that a connection between children and nature is one of the essential components to a brighter future. In fact, it has been shown that this connection may be one of the key factors in improving public health, education and economics as well as human happiness.
The Camdeboo National Park programme offers an opportunity for this connection to be fostered.
It is something that very few towns in the country offer and something we should celebrate, support and promote as a major benefit of living in Graaff-reinet.
This photo was captured earlier this week near the Camdeboo National Park’s Environmental Education Centre.