Raising a Girl in Nature: A Strategy for Inspiring STEM

Contributed by: Anna Ayres

At a very young age, my daughter Destiny loved to walk in the woods. We often walked on trails and she would seek out the bugs, stopping to examine them closer. She noticed ant farms and how they formed a trail following one another with food, finding routes towards desired locations. She would sit and watch them for a very long time until the food was exhausted. The big day arrived when she finally saw the queen ant; instantly she knew this was a much larger and more powerful ant then the others. We talked about her observation and the importance of the queen ant for her colony. Girl looking at bugs

Our walks in nature encouraged quiet observation of many different bugs, birds, squirrels, and so on. Destiny was immersed in something bigger than herself. She was seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting. Most surprising to me she was never afraid of any of the creepy, crawling bugs and spiders we encountered along the trails we walked. Only the horse fly and wasps did she stay away from. Her favorites were butterflies and lady bugs. She was aware that lady bugs came in other colors, not just red with black spots, and she loved the different colors of butterflies, often chasing them to catch and hold and set free again. 

As she grew, her interest in nature heightened, and her father would take her to the creek at the park to catch tap poles and sometimes successfully grow them into frogs. I remember her first Christmas break from school, the classroom had a tree frog named ‘Hoppie’. The teacher told the children whomever arrived first the next morning would get to take care of Hoppie over Christmas break. The next morning, we made sure to be first in line and we were able to keep Hoppie over Christmas break. Destiny was so proud.

I realized early on that we were onto something wonderfully academic, when she started to educate me on the proper names of bugs and their structures. It turned out, nature was a wonderful way of exciting Destiny about science. Now graduating high school with 27 college credits going into university, as her mother, I must give nature the credit, as that is where it all started.

Anna Ayres is a mother passionate about sharing the story of her daughter’s STEM pathway as a way of encouraging other parents and caregivers to engage their children in nature. Anna manages the site: A Walk With Destiny, STEM GIRL.