Ashleigh Woodruff is no stranger to the natural world surrounding her home in Pemberton. In fact, the active three-year-old recently celebrated her birthday in the forest, squatting down and crawling through the underbrush. She accompanied her mother, Veronica Woodruff, an environmental technician at Ecofish Research Ltd., on a reptile survey in the Pemberton area, not an uncommon occurrence for the mother-daughter duo. Their mission on this particular day was to locate a Sharp-tailed Snake or a Northwestern Alligator Lizard. Their search lasted an hour and just as they were about to turn for home, Ashleigh cried out excitedly, "Mum, I got one!"
"There she was, holding one of the rarest snakes in the province in her hands," recalled Woodruff, a sense of pride creeping into her voice.
A classic example of a mother and child bonding through experiences in nature, Woodruff, alongside many Sea to Sky corridor mums, are discovering a strengthening bond with their children through direct contact with Mother Earth.
Woodruff stresses that this connection can be nurtured close to home.
"We have such an interesting ecosystem right here, in our backyards," said Woodruff.
Children possess a natural ability to get out there and be fascinated by the local ecosystems, she said, whether it's digging for worms in the garden, or going down to check out the lamprey eels spawning in the creek or looking at the buds on the trees coming out in spring.
"Through those simple connections in the backyard, you can build those fundamental skills that last a lifetime."
Woodruff, also a board member with the community organization, Stewardship Pemberton, said that facilitating opportunities for families to embrace nature together is one of the group's fundamental goals. A parent-tot walk program held last summer was a success, and she noted that although kids are the main focus, parents also benefitted enormously from the interaction with nature.
"All our programming engages both the parents and the kids and having them out there together is one of the most successful things that we've done for sure," Woodruff said.
Dawn Johnson, mother of two and another board member of Stewardship Pemberton, is passionate about mothers sharing nature with their offspring.
"Mothers have a real opportunity to nourish that connection from a really early age," Johnson said. She said it's really important, especially in this day and age with so much external stimulation from computer devices and phones, to take it down a few notches and get back to the basics.
Sparking inspiration in the younger generations and instilling in children a sense of curiosity so that they start asking their own questions about nature, sets the stage for a changed perspective in adulthood, Johnson explained.
"I feel that in today's world we face a lot of environmental challenges which unfortunately our children are going to have to solve in the future," she said, pointing out that they will be the new voice for the environmental movement.
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