Little Adventures, Big Connections: A Nature Program for Children

Jared Goodykoontz a school naturalist and children’s author/illustrator in Columbus, Ohio (USA), had a dream job, helping over 400 two through six-year-old children to connect with nature each week. He created the program from scratch after reading Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods,” among many other resources.

Then came COVID-19. School was closed – but Jared missed his kids. Here’s what happened:

At first, I was saddened by the shutdowns… I wouldn’t get to see all my students. My thoughts quickly flipped to, “Hey, these kiddos aren’t going to get weekly nature class… for a while” and then “These kids’ entire lives are going to be really off-schedule and strange and their parents are going to be stressed.” The words of my hero, Mister Rogers, rang in my head: “Look for the helpers.” How could be a helper?

Knowing routine is critical for a child’s sense of security, I decided to keep nature class going the only way possible—through daily videos. I thought seeing a familiar, smiling face every day from “back when things were normal” would be soothing for all these kids and parents. I had been asked about doing a nature show several times before, but my aversion to screen time always made me say no. Now it was my only option. But I wanted it to be different. I wanted it to be interactive. I wanted it to be more than 20 minutes of chipmunk facts and songs.

Combining elements from Dora the Explorer and again, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, I have started working on a YouTube show called Little Adventures Big Connections based on relationships. In the show, I talk directly to the viewers, frequently invite them to pause and head outside listen for that bird song or to play CHIP CHIP, the Cardinal-version of Marco Polo. Throughout my videos, I am constantly inviting the families to try these ideas out in their own yards and to email me their discoveries or share them on our school’s private Facebook page.

Read more here.

Jared has a YouTube channel with dozens of videos. Here’s a sample – if he reminds you of Mr. Rogers, I suspect that’s deliberate!