An Introduction to our Guide

I grew up in rural South Carolina, so I was never too far away from nature. I remember fishing with friends occasionally, catching grasshoppers, and exploring the woods beyond my backyard. When I got to college, I didn’t give myself as much time to be outdoors, though it remained something special to me. The occasional camping or biking trips became escapes from school – they were a time to relax away from academia. On the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with this. I think it’s actually a great thing sometimes! It, however, is reductive – the forests and mountains of North Carolina have so much more to offer than just a good place in the shade or a trail to walk. Nature is a wonderful, albeit overlooked, learning environment. The past year has been an incredible re-introduction to nature in a new way. As a part of ASC’s Journey’s program, I was able to witness students interact with the subject they’re studying in a way that an indoor classroom doesn’t allow. The Nature Matters Curriculum Guide is an attempt to bring the fantastic learning opportunity that nature presents into a more traditional classroom setting. Our goal with this guide is multifaceted. We want to ensure that nature is accessible to all youth and to foster an understanding and closeness to it. It is in our backyards, it is in our city, it is beautiful, we benefit from it so much, and it is vital that we understand its importance.

— Carlos Miranda Pereyra, Editor and 2018-2019 Davidson Impact Fellow

In the 12th grade, my AP Environmental Science class took a small group to the Chesapeake Bay Karen Noonan Environmental Education Center for four days. Upon hearing about the trip, I was horrified. The center was a small house way out in Dorchester County, Maryland with 20 acres of marsh to “explore”. It was an immersive experience, my teacher said, no phones or computers allowed.  It felt like I was being flung back to the Dark Ages; we weren’t even allowed to shower as the center strictly managed its water usage. To make things worse, I only knew one of my eight tripmates. The bus ride to the center was quiet, everyone putting their smartphones to good use before they had to give them up. We all anticipated a quiet, boring trip; we could not have been more wrong. Despite my life-long wariness of “the great outdoors,” I had a blast rolling in mud during hide-and-seek, stargazing, identifying types of grass, and going out on boats to catch (and release) crabs. I got to know everyone on the trip much more intimately than before; something about the long grasses blowing in the breeze and the sun setting on the water made it so much easier for us to open up to each other. Before the trip, I’d always thought of the Chesapeake Bay as the very smelly source of delicious crabs. It wasn’t until I waded through muddy, grassy water for four days that I came to see it as a complex ecosystem that deserved attention and love. Even now, years later, I still feel the awe and appreciation for the natural world I discovered on that trip. The need to protect and appreciate our environment was something I’d read in my environmental science textbooks, but my bay trip converted it from vague awareness to a lifelong commitment. As Carlos said before me, experiences like mine are the reason the Nature Matters Curriculum Guide is so vital to Pre-K–12 education. Its lessons augment and enchant traditional classroom fare, instilling a love and appreciation for the natural world that lasts for the rest of a student’s life.  

— Kaiya Carter, Davidson Impact Fellow 2019-2020

My childhood was spent at the base of the Sandia Mountains in the Cibola National Forest near Albuquerque, New Mexico; such an origin fostered in me a life-long love of the mountains and a deep appreciation of the natural world. It gave me great pleasure when, as the 2017-2018 Davidson Impact Fellow, I got to serve as graphic designer of the Nature Matters Culture Guide. In helping craft this guide, I was able to pass on my love of the natural world to younger generations, ensuring continued love and care for the outdoors.

— Alison Fuehrer, 2017-2018 Davidson Impact Fellow