The Nature Connection: The Healing Power of Accessible Nature with Taylor Eagan
I’ve painted a picture in the last few episodes about getting out in nature – like physically getting out there and seeing the landscape of Mother Earth. However, spending time with nature doesn’t always have to be outdoors. This is especially true for those who are have limited or no access to the outside world – such as youth at risk, people with disabilities, and the elderly,
In comes The Nature Connection. The Nature Connection was founded in 1983 and aims to improve the well-being of individuals and communities through the therapeutic use of nature by bringing the outside, and inside through plants, animals, and natural materials to people in its service area of Middlesex County, MA. The Nature Connection values the human-nature relationship and strives for a world in which the benefits of nature are accessible to all, regardless of location, personal abilities, or socioeconomic status. They connect individuals with nature’s capacity to heal, teach, and create joy.
Today you’ll hear from The Nature Connection’s program director Taylor Eagan. At work, she focuses on designing and evaluating accessible and therapeutic programs utilizing plants and animals for people of all abilities and backgrounds.
Meet Taylor Eagan
the nature connection
Taylor’s background lies primarily in animal care and welfare, specifically exotic reptiles, with a secondary focus on education. Meeting The Nature Connection felt like a natural fit!
But what does the Nature Connection do and who do they serve? Taylor tells us:
It’s who we are as people in, in all the different shapes and forms that we come in and, and it’s nature – everything about it.
Our mission at the nature connection is to improve the well-being of individuals and communities through the therapeutic use of nature. And then we specifically really seek out partnering with other organizations and facilities that are serving individuals that, for whatever reason, are in some kind of safety, health, behavioral – whatever it is, they’re living in some kind of facility where they do not have access to the outdoors just on their own terms.
We go into memory care units for seniors with dementia. We go to group homes for kids, with histories of trauma. Kids that are in the system. We go to after-school programs for low-income families and communities. And we go to day-centers for people with disabilities. All of these people have something that is very much limiting their ability to just go outside and walk or have a pet, or sometimes even just a house plant. And so they really, really lose that connection.
Healing through nature
We know that nature has a major impact on our physical and mental health. This is why accessibility in nature is so crucial to The Nature Connection’s work.
We are created to exist with these trees and plants and animals and these natural landscapes, and to have to be removed from that, for very important reasons, absolutely affects our psychological well-being and physical as well.
The Nature Connection works to overcome this barrier for those who cannot get the healing benefits of nature from going outside through their programs. They bring nature inside, and let nature do the rest!
We really focus on a sensory exploration of nature. It’s not someone’s standing up in front of a group, kind of talking about the really cool animal adaptations and the really cool, botanical facts of this tree. Instead, we’re bringing in the bark and the leaves and the acorns and seashells and pine cones and fibers from all different animals and just getting to explore.
You get to play with nature. That’s such a fundamental thing that we don’t think about, but to really have that time to just be and experience based on ourselves. What stories or memories or personal connections are our participants bringing to the table when those experiences happen?
We bring them nature. They bring their experience, and they get to build on that. They get to make connections with themselves, with their environment, and with their food. Through that interaction with nature.
Beyond their in-person sensory programs, The Nature connection also offers online activities and training. To learn more about their programs and offerings click here.
Nature Connectedness is something that all of us can build, but it’s not just a one-and-done hit.
Taylor says, “Nature connectedness is a thing that you build over time through repeated sensory exploration of nature. Then you only get it that way – to have that feeling of place and community within the natural world.”
If you want to get started indoors today, Taylor tells us you can begin with the practice of “I notice, I wonder, and it reminds me of.”
You can do this alone, with friends, or with family. Start with any piece of nature (a rock, flower, blade of grass, shell) and name the things you notice, then what you wonder about, and finally what it reminds you of.
And don’t forget to get involved in your own community and help provide people with nature opportunities who may not be able to otherwise.
To support The Nature Connection, subscribe to their newsletter, donate, or volunteer today!
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