Nature: Connecting families around the world … guess who’s staying at our house this week?

We’re VERY excited in our house right now, because we have some very special guests staying with our family!

The Swaisgood’s are visiting all the way from sunny San Diego, and with the four of them joining the seven of us (plus a few extra aunts/uncles/cousins) for some nature play, there are sure to be plenty of fun times, lots of laughs and plenty of outdoor adventures.


The Swaisgoods – Awesome Nature Connnectors!

Connecting with Nature is also a great people connector! It’s the perfect conduit.

Through my work and my Nurture in Nature Interview Series I’ve been so fortunate to connect with, harvest the wisdom of and even become good friends with many of the wonderful people playing in this space of connecting children – and of course people of all ages – with nature. Janice and Ron Swaisgood are among them.

Janice is The Children & Nature Network’s (C&NN) “National Co-Ordinator, Nature Clubs for Families” and her husband Dr. Ron Swaisgood is the “Director of Applied Animal Ecology” at San Diego Zoo. (Yes, that’s the “Madagascar” Zoo so my kids tell me).

Most importantly though, they’re the inspiring, nature loving and awesome parents of two adventurous young boys.

Through our nature connectionacross the Pacific Ocean – our kids have even become pen pals. Pen and paper ones, just like the old days! Although writing is sporadic … as I remember my pen pals being when I was a kid … and sometimes happens via email instead of the old fashioned snail mail, all the kids are excited when they receive news of each other from afar and are really looking forward to meeting in person.

Before they left the US Ron had told me that they were very much looking forward to their ‘cultural homestay’ with us – which left me thinking, HELP, I had better muster up some ‘culture’ from around here somewhere!

Inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, in 2009 Janice and Ron also founded a Family Nature Club called Family Adventures in Nature in their local area. They now have over 1000 families as members, and help families get nature back on their calendars with a variety of opportunities each month in and around the San Diego region. WOW!

family nature club - family adventures in nature

Family Adventures in Nature families on a Hike, Rose Canyon, San Diego CA. Photo Courtesy of Family Adventures in Nature

As I said before, nature is a great connector.

Family Nature Clubs are a fantastic way to not only connect your own family with and in nature, but they’re a great way to meet other like-minded families for some nature play, socialisation, support and LOTS of fun.

Below is a link to my interview with Janice where we talk all about Family Nature Clubs, and the great resources available through the Children & Nature Network. In her Family Nature Club, she’s seen over 1000 families get back outside, and reconnect with the natural world – and each other.

Janice talks about her family’s nature connection, and how they use time in nature to connect to each other, as a means of restoration, and to learn to love and care for the natural world. Take the challenge to get together either formally or informally with another family or families for a nature outing together. We know that you and your kids will be asking when the next one is!

Please enjoy it with my compliments, here’s the link …

(I’ll post my chat with Ron next week!)

If you are interested in starting up a Family Nature Club in your area, The Children & Nature Network have a fantastic free resource to help you get started called their Nature Clubs for Families Toolkit, here’s the link Here in Australia, Nature Play WA has a similar one based on the fantastic C&NN kit… here’s the link

But of course you don’t have to have 1000+ members to get started … if you want to get out in nature with other families, start by asking just one or two other families and let the fun begin. I can guarantee you that everyone will be asking when the next outing is and can they bring some friends along!

So this week, our two families will be discovering the fun (nature-based and otherwise) that Melbourne has to offer, climbing dormant volcanos (including climbing into their craters!), backyard campfires (complete with s’mores and tin foil dinners), a Great Ocean Road adventure (maybe we’ll see some whales!), exploring the temperate rainforest of The Otway Ranges (complete with a bit of zip lining), searching for emus and kangaroos, taking a trip along one of our beautiful Rail Trails and topping off the week with a few days exploring The Grampians National Park before the Swaisgood’s head onto continue their Aussie Adventures.

taylor and michael our backyard campfire

Taylor and Michael warming up our backyard campfire in preparation for our special visitors!

I’m not sure we can quite match up to excitement of meeting the real life Tassie Devils they are playing with this week Tasmania, but we’ll give it our best shot!

Taylor has been also excitedly waiting to meet Ron. On a recent Skype call, she was excited by the fact that Ron, who also works at the Cocha Cashu Research Station in Peru may know Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego. Ron, said sorry he didn’t know them personally, but he was Ron the Explorer … the smile on Taylor’s face was priceless.

Stay tuned for updates on our adventures (and for Ron’s interview next week).

What is your greatest takeaway from these interviews?

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