We are parents in Portland, Oregon, who share a core value: we believe in the power of nature to transform kids’ lives. But as parents of a boisterous seven-year-old we also know how daunting family hiking can be...especially at that age when kids are still too young for those strenuous trails but too old to be carried. That’s why we've started Super Nature Adventures for families of elementary aged kids here in the Portland region of the Pacific Northwest.
Our story starts with our own hiking experiences with our son. Once he grew too old for his backpack carrier, we realized we had to rethink family hiking to better include him. We each have PhDs with a background in education and the arts. Surely we could come up with something, we thought. So we put our heads together, put on our research hats and got to work.
Here's what we learned. First, kids who are empowered to explore for themselves are more likely to enjoy their time outdoors. If they know where they are going, they are less likely to resist a family hike. Hands-on activities also help. So does an element of imaginative fun. Nature offers kids all kinds of opportunities to imagine new worlds if we support and encourage it. Kids naturally like to touch and explore what's right in front of them. Supporting those interests and sharing in their excitement leads to a greater desire for learning about the outdoors.
As we came up with ideas and started testing them out with our son, we focused on ways to support him. That's when the materials for Super Nature Adventures began. Once we came up with the sticker scavenger map - and the kinds of fun drawings that now show up in our Field Guides - we noticed a change in our family hiking. Instead of battles, hiking became fun again. After we shared these materials with other kids who also loved them as much as our son, we realized we were on to something.
Super Nature Adventures is also a project that comes deep from the heart. We care about this planet, and that’s why we believe now, more than ever, we need to foster kids’ long-term connections with the outdoors. Study after study shows that time out in nature sparks the imagination, helps builds self-reliance, and most of all, fosters humility and respect. We want to help Portland area families ignite a lifelong love of nature in their kids, so that together, we can raise a generation to care for this world.
-Bryna Campbell & Mike Murawski
Bryna Campbell has a PhD in Art History and American Culture Studies, with an expertise on the role of nature in American art and culture. When she’s not parenting or outdoors, she’s busy teaching college art history classes.
Mike Murawski has a PhD in Education. When he’s not parenting or outdoors, he’s working at the Portland Art Museum as Director of Education and Public Programs. He also makes nature illustrations that can be found at the Instagram account @rootsdesignpnw
Together, Mike and Bryna have been making the outdoors a central part of their life since they first met each other many years ago in college. In 2015, they completed the 52 Hiking Challenge with their son. On the bucket list: visiting every national park the in the US.