Wondering how to instill a sense of wonder and connection to nature in your child this summer? That’s how we went into Quarry Hill Nature Center last week with our 4-year- old daughter, Aurora. My wife (Katie) and I would don the guise of intrepid explorers, plunge into the wild woods, and metamorphose our young daughter from an insectiphobe into a full-blown entomologist. That was the plan, anyway.
We pulled up to Quarry Hill, which was buzzing with kids at various nature camps. We were here to get our hands on one of the Adventure Backpacks. After a short chat with the friendly Mrs. Finn, we acquired the “Insect Investigator” pack. This was going to be good.
We tore into the backpack’s contents, ready to devour some insect knowledge. The “Investigator” pack did not disappoint. It was full of a bundle of neatly arranged folders and packets like “Tree Detective,” “Be An Entomologist,” and “What’s For Lunch?” complete with maps, diagrams, instructions, bug-goggles, even preserved bugs!
That last one took Aurora by surprise. “Agh! What’s that?!” she grimaced and stumbled backward. This was going to be tricky.
After a good deal of coaxing and bribing, Aurora was a bit more comfortable with the box of arthropods and the prospect of actually seeking out creepy-crawlies. The woods loomed ahead, undoubtedly teeming with six-legged quarry. Our descent into the thicket quickly proved me right; we kept busy swatting flies and mosquitoes for a while until we happened upon a satisfactory log.
“I dunno,” Aurora whimpered, holding her hands over her face.
I paused for dramatic effect, then heaved the log sideways to reveal… some dirt. Luckily, the “Tree Detective” kit saved me.
“Do you notice anything on the log? How does it feel? What do you think made those lines?” I parroted from the provided script. Aurora inched toward the log as I handed her the miniature magnifying glass from the kit. A few minutes of academic inquiry later, she was on all fours in the dirt, squinting through the glass.
The Adventure Backpack continued to be invaluable. Our former confidence as insect explorers—although preserved in the eyes of Aurora—faded into a humble gratitude for the expertise distilled in this skillfully-crafted pack. In the end, we observed several ants, a pill bug, a hoverfly (adroitly captured and proudly displayed for my small audience), and a fleeting glimpse of a butterfly. We returned the backpack, which was still brimming with adventures yet to undertake. Another day.
“Did you have a good time, Aurora?” we asked.
“Ready for ice cream?” (We had to make good on our previous bribe).
It had been a good day of insect exploration. We successfully helped our daughter conquer her fear of bugs. Hand in hand, we made our way back to the parking lot. Aurora offhandedly made one last comment before buckling up.
“I hate bugs.”