I was fortunate enough to have a childhood filled with long, hours spent in natural playscapes, unencumbered by time constraints and adult rules. Mother Nature, our third parent, dictated the rules and She was to be respected. I pursued a degree in Therapeutic Recreation, inspired by the developments in the field of Special Education, yet, feeling a strong conviction that people with physical and mental challenges deserved, at the very least, an equal opportunity to develop and grow through outdoor and otherwise free time pursuits. In my early years, as a camp counselor, I saw the growth and empowerment that came to children of all strengths and abilities via outdoor camp experiences. Upon graduation, I was employed in a medical setting, which led to pursuit of a degree in Occupational Therapy. The importance of play for play sake was only cemented by continued education and follow up employment in the community with children in schools and homes.
My husband and I were able to observe our 5 children blossom on an organic farm, with open meadows, woodlands and a river. As they reach adulthood, the influence of these experiences can be seen in paths they are choosing. One of the most rewarding results I see is that they have the confidence, commitment and clarity to make choices, largely due to countless opportunities to make their own decisions in a safe, unstructured, nature filled environment.
Opportunities for children to experience what should be a God given, inalienable right….unstructured, self directed access to outdoor nature spaces, have shrunk at an alarming rate. I feel this is a true tragedy for which our society will pay for years to come on so many levels. For example, in the schools, the number of children who are referred for Occupational Therapy with the primary concern being an inability to regulate (emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally) has increased astronomically. Koop, it’s concept and existence, are a refreshing, encouraging and hope-filled antidote to this disturbing trend.