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Getting Kids Back to Nature

Now that my first summer as Coordinator of Education & Outreach at the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) is winding to a close, I finally have time to review the busy season. While only one part of my job; developing, organizing and then experiencing the KidsTreks was a major highlight! The participants’ enthusiasm was infectious and the parents were happy for fun and informative (and free) activities for their kids to do outdoors. All four KidsTreks were booked weeks before they began, and names were continuously being added to the waiting lists, which only confirmed that there is a major need for environmental education in the 1000 Islands communities.

I believe that all children possess an innate curiosity for nature and that choosing to encourage that sense of wonder while they’re young will result in a respect for the natural world that will last throughout their lives. And I’m so happy that my job at TILT allows me to encourage that wonder in such a fun and rewarding way! So what incredible adventures did the kids get to experience this past summer with TILT

The first KidsTrek was “Art from Nature” at TILT’s Zenda Farm Preserve, led by Kelly Tuttle, an art teacher from the Indian River school system. Through a variety of activities, the kids learned how art can be found in nature and also how art can be created from nature. Everyone drew the natural environment that they saw around the barns and also used bits of leaves and berries, etc to create art. They were then given “viewfinders” and given a time limit to create a landscape masterpiece based on the vistas of Zenda. The biggest thrill of the day was when we handed out clay and each kid got to create a pinch pot that they decorated and carved using more natural materials. The creative spirit was very strong that day! 

The second trek was “Ichthyologist for a Day” led by Dr. John Farrell and his SUNY ESF crew from the Thousand Islands Biological Station on Governor’s Island. Dr. Farrell started the day with a quick slideshow and then we broke off into 3 teams to rotate through the different stations he had set up. At one station we learned about (and then got to touch!) fish & turtles that were displayed in tanks. Another station visited the TIBS lab to learn about the food chain and use the microscopes to check out what organisms are living in a single drop of water. The last station featured Dr. Farrell’s sons helping kids fish off the docks, which naturally was the highlight.­­ 

The next trek was “Mystery on the Trail: Tracking Animal Clues” and was led by me and my intern, Smith Hambrose, on TILT’s Macsherry Trail in Hammond. We set up “Nature Scenes” (instead of Crime Scenes) in the woods using animal tracks, bones, scat and pelts lent to us by the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center. We started the day with a short discussion about what types of signs animals leave in the wild, what each kid has seen and how we should all proceed as “Nature Scene Investigators.” Then each child was equipped with a magnifying glass and set loose to investigate the Nature Scenes and write down their conclusions. After checking out the scenes we decided to explore the Macsherry Trail a little further. We actually spotted more animal clues past the scenes that we had set up, which was exciting, and showed that everyone was really using all their investigative skills to experience nature!

The final KidsTrek was called “Tree Trek in the Wellesley Woods” led by TILT’s Stewardship Coordinator Don Brown, who is a 30-year veteran of forestry. This trek had a special location, at the home of Sandy and Jeanine McNally, who were so kind as to invite us to their property! Don led the kids around the property, taught them how to identify different trees, and shared trivia about each as we went. We did a short exercise of pairing off and leading our blindfolded partners around to identify trees using senses other than sight. The big finale was the activity at the end – leaf poundings on tee shirts! Each kid received a white tee shirt, some wax paper and a hammer and pounded away on wooden boards to create beautiful designs out of flowers and leaves we collected. No two shirts were alike and it gave the trekers an additional keepsake to take home 

More photos from the 2012 KidsTreks can be found at TILT’s Flickr page. Each trek featured a distinct activity booklet, designed right here at TILT, that kids were able to take home. We soon plan to make these booklets available to the public in PDF form on the upcoming TILT Kids section of our website. Keep checking the TILT website ( for updates, and other kid-centric projects we have in the works! 

Due to the overwhelming response to our 2012 KidsTreks, TILT plans to repeat the most popular ones next summer, as well as introduce  new ones. There really is no limit as to where this program can go! We welcome community input: Please email me at cmockler@tilandtrust with any ideas and suggestions for KidsTreks 2013. And I hope to see you and yours on a KidsTrek next summer!

By Corinne Mockler

Corinne is responsible for developing and managing the TILTreks & Talks program, as well as community outreach at the Thousand Islands Land Trust as Coordinator of Education and Outreach. She grew up in rural Maine and earned her BFA in advertising and graphic design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She has also taken classes in horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She earned a Permaculture Design Certificate from the NY Open Center. It was the basic theory of Permaculture that really hit home for Corinne: “Care of People. Care of Planet. Return of Surplus to Both.”  

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Hilary Anne
Comment by: Hilary Anne ( )
Left at: 7:47 AM Sunday, September 16, 2012
Corinne's work is the vortex that bonds the past, present and future of our natural island environments. By illustrating the love of the land and the art of living cooperatively with nature, Ms. Mockler is creating colorful memories today that will have both an empathetic and pivotal impact on the future of our fragile island ecosystems. Her "graduates" are now happily wearing their innately artistic hearts on their sleeves and I trust that the land is in stronger little hands!
TILT~please embrace this crystal rock with kid gloves...purpose and passion shine bright light and provide safe passage.
Thousand Islands Life~Thank you for publishing marvelous "tales" for wee river rats!
Skip Tolette
Comment by: Skip Tolette ( )
Left at: 9:06 AM Sunday, September 16, 2012
Terrific work---thank you Corrine! Joan & Skip