Cheers to 50 years at Indian Creek Nature Center! Our family reflects regularly on the impact the Nature Center has had on our lives. We were already connected with the Nature Center, exploring the trails frequently when we first moved to Cedar Rapids in 2016, but then, our oldest child, Mirabelle, started at Creekside Forest School (CFS) and our family’s connection grew immensely. Given the opportunity, Mirabelle would spend all day outside, so CFS was the perfect fit. Within weeks of starting school, Mirabelle’s confidence skyrocketed, their creativity grew, and their problem-solving skills soared. Mirabelle’s environmental knowledge and sensory experience has been magnified through their connection to nature.
The immersive outdoor experience fostered Mirabelle’s innate characteristics, such as being an empath. Our family values community, and we have observed that Mirabelle has a greater sense of community by being able to play and learn in a nature-based environment. All of these benefits are further made possible because of the educational team leading them. CFS educators want to see confident, independent, and happy children. The opportunities for Mirabelle’s development are created by weaving in empathy, respect, and setting healthy boundaries into outdoor play. One example that needs mention is that on Mirabelle’s first week of school, an ant crawled on their arm in the bathroom. This was very scary and Mirabelle would not use the bathroom during school for weeks. CFS teachers were so empathetic and helped Mirabelle get to the point where they started saying “Hey, little buddy!” and picking up the ants to hold. Today, Mirabelle cannot pass any insect, dead or alive, without needing to pick it up and show everyone around. How cool for a child to be able to work on a variety of gross motor skills and emotional skills all in the same setting?!
While our intent of sending Mirabelle to an outdoor school was to benefit them, we quickly found that an immersive outdoor education is not just for the child — that experience changes and betters the parent as well. Example: Maddie is terrified of spiders. In fact, part of our wedding vows was that Kendra would kill all the spiders found in the home. The spiders found inside the Weston home are now treated with the respect they deserve as living beings, as “bug rescues” are now common. We find ourselves yearning to be outside more (and making time for it) because we see the immediate impact nature has on our emotional well-being. We’re also more cognizant of how we can protect our earth for future generations to enjoy and implement more sustainable practices into our home life.
As the parents of a child at CFS, we were also pleasantly surprised to be connected with so many other families who share an overwhelming number of values. Everyone, from all walks of life, can find joy in nature. But, there seems to be many shared values by those families that can choose a nature school. Empathy, inclusivity, reciprocal partnerships, open-mindedness, understanding, respect, community, diversity, environmental awareness, and sustainability, to name a few. The Weston family is forever grateful to be a part of such a beautiful community. Thank you, Indian Creek Nature Center!