Though the great outdoors beckons, it’s not always easy to get there to enjoy it. From winter’s bone-chilling cold to summer’s energy-sapping humidity, there are days when a walk in the woods can be a daunting proposition even for the heartiest souls.
But thanks to the Outreach Programs offered by the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, the sights, sounds and sensory delights to be found outside can be brought indoors for all to enjoy.
For permanent residents of retirement centers, assisted living or memory care facilities or for regular drop-in attendees of senior activity groups, these nature-on-the-go programs serve a vital function: to connect them to and inform them of the many fascinating wonders of the natural world.
“We bring nature to a traditionally underserved segment of our population,” said Jeanette Joy, Nature Outreach Coordinator. “People tend to think of educational programs as strictly being the purview of school groups and while we do offer outreach to preschools and daycare groups, too, we are especially proud of the impact we’re making on the senior community.”
Through easy-to-follow power point presentations, stunning visuals and unusual props such as shells, hides and feathers, Joy makes environmental subjects come alive by putting nature literally in the palms of her audience’s hands.
“We typically bring different animals pelts from our collection for people to pet,” said Joy. “They get a kick out of telling their grandchildren that they petted a skunk today.”
Nature itself is a unifying and universal theme that men and women of all ages and walks of life can relate to. From bird-watching to gardening, flower arranging to hiking, many people have included nature in their daily lives through hobbies and special interests.
“Nearly everyone has a treasured childhood memory that has to do with being outdoors and interacting with nature,” said Joy. “Maybe it was climbing a tree or playing in the creek. These programs take people back to those happy times.”
Many of Hickory Knolls’ Outreach Programs celebrate other cultures, such as the important Native American influence found in the St. Charles area. Other programs, such as “Home Sweet Home” and “Adorable Animal Babies” shed new light on the resourcefulness of animals as they create habitats and nurture their young from adorable babies to independent adults. Still others, such as “Life in the Desert” and “Secrets of the Rainforest” introduce environments and habitats far different from any to be found nearby.
“Seniors have an inherent love of learning,” said Joy. “I really pack a lot of information into these programs and the people who attend respond to being intellectually stimulated.”
For Joy, there is a real joy that comes from conducting these programs. “I benefit from the interaction as much as they do,” said Joy, who says that the best part of her day is when she watches a person’s face light up as they touch a bear pelt for the first time or tell her a story from their own experience.
Currently, Joy brings her Outreach Programs to more than a dozen different centers serving the senior population throughout the Tri-City area. In 2016, she conducted nearly 50 programs that reached more than 1,000 older adults. Each Outreach Program lasts about one hour and can be scheduled Monday through Friday from 9am-3pm. To arrange for an Outreach Program, contact Jeanette Joy at email@example.com or 630-513-4357.