It started as a simple hike at day camp. We were walking around Walcott Lake and talking about what lived there. Suddenly one of the kids spotted a mussel shell and they were all immediately captivated by the “seashells.” They wanted to know what it was and when they found out that an animal lived in it, they wanted to know what it ate and what ate it. A simple shell, that most adults would have walked right past, opened up a new area of interest for these kids.
I love getting to work with children in my job because they have a need to explore and learn about their surroundings that adults often leave behind as they get older. For an adult, a trail is a way to get from one place to another, a way to stay fit, or a simple walk through the woods. For a child, that same trail is unexplored territory filled with new creatures, strange plants, and thrilling experiences.
They also have a slightly different way of exploring things. They use all of their senses to learn about an object. Leaves are rubbed and sniffed, furs are touched, and everything is looked at with an eye for detail that might surprise someone unfamiliar with children. This allows them to understand an object at a deeper level than they would from just looking at it and moving on.
I learn so much from watching the children in the park. They remind me that every day is a new chance to explore and learn about the world around me. They remind me that a walk in the woods should always be an adventure full of things I may not have ever noticed before. They remind me that using all of my senses makes the experience that much richer and, maybe most importantly, they help me to see simple, familiar objects with a new appreciation that only comes by looking at it with eyes like a child.
Heather Runyan graduated from Henderson State University with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Park Administration and after college served two terms as an AmeriCorps member. She began working for Arkansas State Parks in 2006 as the Park Interpreter at Crowley’s Ridge State Park. Heather is a member of the National Association for Interpretation and a Certified Interpretive Guide.