For most, nature’s capacity to instill awe and calm goes without saying. Sea turtles nesting, dolphins frolicking, birds wading and migrating— wildlife encounters like these can leave us inspired and renewed. But a growing body of research is beginning to show that contact with nature has many proven physical, mental, and emotional benefits too, with “Nature Therapy” sometimes even prescribed as a supplemental Rx treatment and approach to well-being.
Here in the Keys, with over 400,000 acres of land and shallow waters that make up the subtropical Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges, there are many opportunities to tap into nature’s therapeutic bounty. Saturday, March 10 through Saturday, March 17, the Refuge Complex and their Friends group Florida Keys Wildlife Society hosts the third annual Outdoor Fest with a full week of family-friendly, mostly free outdoor adventures and hands-on activities—events that will not only boost your mood, but enhance your connection to your creativity while you explore that natural world around you.
“Our lives are so busy and hectic now-a-days,” says refuge Deputy Project Leader Christine Ogura. “Nature transports me to another place that slows me down and gives me time to take a breath, reflect and appreciate. Art-making does the same thing. One inspires the other.”
Ogura will lead a “Wildlife Origami” workshop during the Outdoor Fest on Friday, March 16 from 10:00am-11:30am at the National Key Deer Refuge visitor center. The workshop is one of several “Nature Therapy” type of workshops for children and adults offered that week, in addition to several other events, activities, lectures, and field trips. Others include: Intro to Nature Sketching on Thursday, March 15 from 9:30am-11:30am, a Sunrise Photo Shoot and Morning bird/Nature Photography workshop on Friday, March 16 from 6:30am-8:30am, and a Refuge Photography Contest exhibit and open house reception at the New National Key Deer Refuge Visitor Center on Overseas Highway, Wednesday, March 14 from 5:30pm–7:30pm. All are free and open to everyone regardless of artistic abilities, though advanced registration is required to the workshops.
“No experience is needed,” says Loretta Gallant, who will lead the Intro to Nature Sketching workshop. “Just a desire to discover the joy of expressing yourself through art in nature.”
Gallant looks forward to sharing what she says is “a new way to deepen the connection to the natural world” with others. Her offering is a perfect example of how to tap into Nature Therapy, which is based on the idea that people are connected to and impacted by the natural environment. Add to that the benefits of engaging in one’s creativity and you have an Rx for happiness, sure to help cure what ails you.
“It slows you down, allowing you to be in the moment,” says Gallant. “In a chaotic world, nature brings order and purpose, reminding you of what is real and important. You remember who you are.”
For more information about the refuges and the list of Outdoor Fest events, visit FloridaKeysWildlifeSociety.org or contact Kristie Killam at 305.304.9625 or email Nancy or Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org. B rought to you in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. Brought to you in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.