Community, nature, and mentoring all play key roles in raising healthy children, said Two Coyotes Wilderness School Executive Director Justin Pegnataro. He will present the talk “It Takes A Village To Raise A Child” on Wednesday, April 23, at the Newtown Prevention Council’s Parent Speaker Series at the C.H. Booth Library, 7 pm.
First addressing nature, Mr Pegnataro, who runs the Two Coyotes wilderness school in Newtown, said, “We are living in a world where kids are not spending as much time outdoors.” He aims to give children the experience of playing outside. “We believe that kids that get outside to play have healthier minds and bodies,” he said.
Through a recent e-mail he said that nature, community, and mentoring are “essential to healthy childhood development.” Unlike current childhood focus on different forms of electronic media, he said, “Just a few decades ago children grew up outdoors.” He envisions trails behind houses that lead to the park, pond, or a neighbor’s houses.
Regarding community and mentors, he said, “When kids have adults committed to helping them grow, they are more successful, and make better choices in their lives. When kids have adult support they are less likely to engage in damaging behavior or take unhealthy risks.”
Mr Pegnataro said resilience comes from the many people in a child’s life. “More adults build more strength and support,” he said. “A child is on a hero’s journey to understand their strengths and how to grow — mentoring plays role in healthy development of a child or anyone…”
In his e-mail he wrote: “I think all parents want to raise strong resilient children of vision and character. ... it takes community and adults who are committed to supporting the healthy development of children. Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties. Our ability to recover is often directly related to the amount of support we have from our community. Healthy communities support resilient individuals. We believe that creating community happens through creating meaningful relationships with families that share your family’s values.”
Mentoring is also a key component to healthy development. A mentor helps a person to discover his or her strengths and find the places the person could grow. “We believe that each person holds a gift for the world and that it is their life’s journey to find out what that gift is… our children are the best place to start growing a generation of people of vision and character,” he added.
What can parents do? He suggests: Invite extended family and friends to play a larger role in a child’s life, limit screen time and go on a family walk or make sure your kids play in the yard or neighborhood for an hour a day, get involved with organizations with mentors like scouting, sports, karate, wilderness programs, and more, keep family schedules open time for unstructured free play.
Mr Pegnataro mentored graduate students in teaching environmental education at the Yale School of Forestry. He holds BS degrees in anthropology and biology, and has been teaching children about nature for 12 years. He brings his passion for nature and commitment to community to Two Coyotes. Learn more about his programs at TwoCoyotes.org.
Reservations for the April 23 discussion can be made at CHBoothLibrary.org.