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Starting them young. Raising them wild.

Posted on May 01 2017

It was easy for me to make a choice to move to Utah on my own, 6 years ago, to attend graduate school. I was captivated by the Bear River Range and loved how easy it was to access trails in Logan Canyon for just about any outdoor sport you can think of. Granite cliff walls, raging rivers and snowcapped mountains as far as the eye can see was not something I experienced as a kid growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. But what I did experience as a kid was weekends in the park riding bikes and afternoons waddling through creeks collecting fool’s gold and pet rocks.

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Being outside was (is!!!) very important for me: it is where I developed my love for science, my sense of adventure, my appreciation for my surroundings, and my desire to understand our natural world. Now that I am a mother, it is very important for me to pass my knowledge down to my daughter, Charlotte, so that she may understand nature connects us and teaches us to be humble and brave and that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

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Charlotte was 6 months old when she experienced her first National Park in Moab, Utah, 9 months old when she put her toes in the ocean for the first time, 12 months old when she reached the highest summit in the Bear River Range, 15 months old when she first snowboarded at Beaver Mountain and 19 months old when she planted her first garden. I think it is critical to introduce her to the outdoors at a young age, when she is developing very rapidly. She is at the age where everything surrounding her shapes her perception. She’s like a sponge!

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Don’t get me wrong, it is A LOT of work doing anything with a young child. LIKE, A LOT OF WORK!  But it is so worth it to see the amazement in her eyes and hear her giggles as she gets excited. Right now, her favorite thing to do is pick dandelions on our walks after dinner. We’re hoping to take her on her first camping trip later this spring!

It is a privilege to be a mother. It is THE grand adventure. You get to watch a piece of your heart and soul grow outside of your body. You even get to experience their everything for the very first time. And it is magic. I hope she continues to develop her natural sense of wonder for the outdoors as we will always make it accessible to her. Utah makes it easy for us to get outside but something as simple as a park is a whole new world for her to explore and develop her own imagination.

If I can hope to pass along something to my daughter it would have to be bravery! ….. To rise in the face of challenge. I want her to know that when she has a difficult task in front of her, she has the ability to tackle it. I think this is something we learn naturally from exploring the outdoors, for example, when you set foot at the base of a mountain. The journey in front of you is not easy and it takes preparation and planning. When you get to the top, you have overcome the challenge of the climb and the reward, the view... it’s a powerful feeling of accomplishment. I hope I can teach this to her young as she is wild and free!! … because there are many things to overcome in life and I want her to be brave enough to take the first step.

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Jinni Meehan just graduated from Utah State University with a Ph.D. in space physics. Born in North Carolina, her love for science and nature began with her fascination of the weather that she adopted from her older brother. Constantly curious, she seeks to understand the unknown and enjoys the challenge of a new adventure.

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