One goal of Crossroads at Big Creek is “to provide trails and natural areas where groups and individuals can engage in environmentally gentle recreation”, so what does recreation—play— have to do with learning? With the school year getting underway, we think a lot about education—sometimes so much so that we forget that for children, playing is learning.


In Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians, Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd wrote, “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth……Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.”


Apparently, play also is important  to the optimal development of wildlife. Researchers tell us that play is an indicator of intelligence in animals and that most mammals and birds engage in some sort of play.


Several years ago, a red fox established a den beside Big Creek near the Hanson House. We didn’t notice the den for a while because for the first month of their lives, the kits are fed with food regurgitated by their  mother. But as spring progressed, the kits would come out to play in the evenings. Their frolicking looked like great fun, but through their mock struggles, they probably were developing coordination and survival skills.


Most fun for us was watching those evenings when the vixen produced a small mammal for the kits to play with. I was never sure whether the hapless mouse or vole was alive or dead.  But when the mother tossed it into the air,  the  young foxes pounced on it, like a bunch of football players falling on a loose ball and struggling for possession. So was this only a game?


For years, animal behaviorists have debated whether young animals play for the fun of it …or if play has survival value. I think both, and I feel the same way about child’s play.


This week, our activities will be child’s play.  On Saturday morning, at 10:30, “Nature Games” will be offered at the Collins Learning Center. Kids of all ages will learn about the environment by playing simulation games and then by going into the woods for unstructured free play.


Sunday, September 7 is Grandparpents Day, so the Door County Historical Society has extended a special invitation to grandparents (and parents) to bring children to the Heritage Village between 1:30 and 3:30  for an afternoon of games……Renee McAllister has gathered the props and rules for the games our grandparents would have played. The buildings in The Village will also be open. This program is free and open to the public.


Friends of Crossroads will meet in the Collins Learning Center  at 6:30 on Monday, September 8. Those hoping to volunteer at Crossroads are urged to attend this meeting to plan fall activities.


Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor supported preserve welcoming learners of all ages to programs in science, history and the environment. During Fall,tthe Collins Learning Center , located at 2041 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay, is open2:00-4:30 daily and during scheduled activities. Trails are always open. Admission is free of charge.


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