Kelly introduces children to the great outdoors
Each day Kelly Smith mixes the same potion: a handful of imagination and a sprinkle of art.
It’s a concoction that’s proven successful with the “smallies’ that accompany her on nature walks, scavenger hunts and any number of activities she comes up with to keep them interested.
“We do something different every time,” she said. “Even if we repeated a location we would not do the same thing twice.”
Her goal when she started Kreative Art and Nature for Smallies last September was to get young people interested in the outdoors.
Whatever adventure she leads, she weaves in a story. While at the moat at Fort Hamilton her group of three to ten-year-olds donned little crowns of ferns.
“They were princes and princesses,” said Ms Smith, who then pretended the royal party was lost and had them look for creepy crawlies “for survival”.
There were squeals when the children found worms under a rock. For some of them it was their first encounter with the creatures.
“They were definitely there for the discovery and hunting,” she laughed. “You heard, ‘I want to touch it, I want to touch it’. Then worms were flying and everyone was jumping around. They have those reactions because they are not used to touching critters.”
The 40-year-old recalls how she climbed trees and played in the dirt when she was a child.
“I would go on little adventures,” she said. “I would imagine I was in the jungle or building a hut.”
She found things had changed by the time she got into early education, 15 years ago.
“When I worked as a nursery teacher I would take my students outside to play and they would not know what to do outdoors,” she said. “When they put their hands in the dirt they said, ‘Eww …’”
Her fear is that the pandemic may have made things worse. With people forced to stay at home many youngsters are parked in front of televisions and iPads so their parents can get work done.
“I thought, instead of causing more strain on the home, perhaps I could see how we can use the outdoors or things we have right at our fingertips to create a stress-free environment,” Ms Smith said. “I think with everything just stopping, with no real intervention or redirection of what was once a norm, it was hard for people to readjust. They were trying to do the same routines in a different scenario which wasn't working.”
Her adventure tours always include little facts about science and nature.
She once had the children combine seeds and peanut butter to make cakes which they put out to attract birds so they could eyeball them a little better.
“A lot of times we see birds flying but don’t get a chance to really look at them,” she said.
When Ms Smith started KANS she kept her groups to no more than six children. She is now offering family sessions so that people do not have to mix bubbles – the pandemic has forced her to adjust.
Ironically, there was a time in her life when she could not enjoy nature as much as she does now.
Five years ago, after battling fatigue, aching muscles and rashes for months, she learnt she had lupus, a disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its tissues and organs.
“At first it was quite mild” but after a year it attacked her kidneys.
Forced to stay out of the sun because it exacerbated some of her symptoms she turned to art to provide spiritual healing.
“I do mixed-media art,” she said. “I do a lot of work with natural materials and found objects.”
After people started telling her that she needed to sell her art, she created KANS Spiritual Inspirations and held several shows including one last December at the back of a friend’s store.
With her health a lot better she can now enjoy the sun more.
The experience of being sick helped her focus on what was important.
“Ultimately, all of what I have been doing all my life, what has been my passion, has filtered down into one thing,” she said. “You go through life and do this and do that, and think you want to be this and go off on all these little adventures. Then you come back and realise all of this has come full circle. You start picking out the things you don’t need. Then you have this product.”
For more information: www.kansbermuda.com or @KreativeArtandNatureforSmallies on Facebook. Contact Kelly Smith on 504-1033 or firstname.lastname@example.org