Learning Life Lessons During Nature Night in Gary New Duluth

Nature Nights Will Continue Through the Summer for Youth in the Duluth Area

GARY NEW DULUTH, Minn. – Getting kids off cell phones, and into the forest. It’s a goal of one teacher in the Gary New Duluth neighborhood as the community’s rec center continues to host Nature Nights.

“In spring, kids should smell like dirt,” said Leslie Bucar, youth director at the Gary New Duluth Rec Center.

You can practically smell the excitement at the Gary New Duluth Rec Center.

“I tell parents I will return your children to you tired, happy, and dirty,” said Bucar.

A visual sign of learning life lessons in the great outdoors.

“We learned about bees, and ticks, and how to plant trees,” said Ricky Carlsness, a parent in the Morgan Park neighborhood.

From insects, to fire starting, and cooking over an open flame, the course is teaching lifelong skills to these youngsters, and their parents are also walking away with new knowledge.

“For me, it’s satisfying that they’re taking ownership of their woods,” said Bucar.

The idea for Nature Nights, stemming from recent reckless behavior in the neighborhood.

“We’ve had a lot of vandalism happening out at the GND Rec, especially in our forest,” said Bucar. “Especially with COVID-19, getting kids outdoors, being able to be close to your friends, and be in a safe way is more important than ever.”

She prides herself on satisfaction, knowing her education is helping make an impact for years to come.

“I just think it’s really important to have a sort of stewardship of the forest, and for them to realize they have a voice. They may be a child but they know things,” said Bucar.

“He’s taught me a lot. We were walking the nature trail the other day and he was telling me about the deer scrapes,” said Carlsness.

For Carlsness and his son, Camden, it’s not only a time to bond but also prepare for the unexpected as he watches his son grow up.

“If someday he’s stuck in the woods somewhere and he’s lost, not to panic and use what he learned today. Hopefully, it’ll save his life someday,” said Carlsness.

During this specific Nature Night, the Carlsness family had the chance to show respect for the school forest site.

“It shows him respect for nature when we are planting a tree,” said Carlsness.

As for Bucar, once the night wraps up, she’s filled with gratitude knowing a simple after-school event helped create lasting memories with minds that are full of fun facts and fascinating tricks.

“I think just those lightbulb moments when the kids find something that just piques their curiosity,” said Bucar.

“I think the most rewarding thing is going to be when we plant this little tree sapling and we can come back when he’s my age and we can say, I planted that tree. That’s my tree, I planted it,” said Carlsness.

Nature Nights will continue Mondays and Thursdays from 2:30 – 6:00 p.m. until school ends.

This summer, the classes will pick back up on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.

If you’d like to sign up, click here for more information.

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