When I was growing up, there was a drainage ditch down the street from a friend’s house. We called this place Crawdad Creek because another friend once found a crawdad there. I never caught one, but I remember spending hours trying. Looking back, those were the moments it felt like childhood was magical.
Exploring the natural world connects us to the awe and wonder of life itself.
As a grown up living in the largest city in the state, I lament how much of our life together is spent surrounded by concrete. It’s difficult to find natural spaces like lakes, creeks, or wooded areas for outdoor play — except they do make spaces like that.
They call them parks.
Now there is a Crawdad Creek at Platte River State Park, one of the eight other Nebraska State Parks easily accessible. Thanks to some new friends we made at a local unschooling group, who invited us out and freely shared fishing nets and buckets of all sizes, the kids had the best day of the summer so far!
The afternoon felt like a scene out of Norman Rockwell painting. It was a gorgeous day with a gentle breeze, still cool in the shade. The kids made up their own adventures, hunting for crawdads and tadpoles while the parents monitored for safety and chatted among themselves.
When kids are free to play within a natural place of wonder, they come alive in ways that can still surprise us.
It didn’t take long for the kids to organize themselves into a tadpole catching machine, dividing the workload and consolidating everybody’s tadpoles into the largest bucket. They had a mission. When conflict inevitably arose, they worked it out with more speed, efficiency, and kindness than usual because of their clear objective. They caught more than 50 tadpoles altogether! When it was time to leave, the tadpoles were given names (mostly the same one) and all release back into the wild.
The only downside was we hadn’t found any crawdads.
But we’ll be back here again. We still have 9/10ths more to explore before we move on to the other seven parks!