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Oregon Family Magazine

At Home in Nature Nearby

03/01/2022 ● By Beth Stein
Strange birds – who’s singing that song? Towering trees – sky high, spring green. Weird bugs – whoa! In addition to meeting new people, moving to a new place means meeting new natural neighbors.

If you’ve recently relocated to a new community, or if even if you’ve just switched sides of town, take some time to help your kids feel at home in their new natural neighborhood. Who’s that tall tree sheltering you from the rain? And what about that squirrel who just crossed the road? Where does she live? Who are those bugs are burrowing in your garden? And who’s making the air smell so sweet? Kids who are grounded in the place they live are more easily settled in their new environment overall, from their bedroom in the apartment building to their classroom at school.

As you wander, remember, just like human neighbors, some of your new natural neighbors will be super welcoming and easy to befriend – shiny red ladybugs, fluffy cottonwood seeds, and wiggly worms. These sorts of neighbors can be happily held in hand. Other new neighbors might be downright prickly or much more private – bees and nettles you encounter during the daytime or secretive night critters like owls and bats. Once you get to know these more sensitive individuals, however, you’ll understand better how to live cooperatively with them. Learning to treat all neighbors with kindness and respect, and caretaking the spaces they need to thrive and grow, is a great life lesson.

As you explore, expand your circle of discovery wider than just next door or around the block. Maybe even cross the tracks! The further you reach out, the more delightful diversity you’ll encounter.  And the better your children get to know their unique natural neighbors – and maybe their human ones as well – the richer and more fascinating (rather than frightening) their new community will become. 

  • For neighborhood exploration ideas, check out Eugene and Springfield Townscape Walks by Tyler Burgess. This charming book features hand-drawn maps of in-town walks that will inspire discovery in all directions.
  • For a collection of month-by-month nature notes about a myriad of our natural neighbors, see A Lane County Almanac by David Wagner.  In this fascinating book you’ll learn about everything from the tiniest mosses to the tallest trees.
  • For an extensive list of Northwest natural history resources on everything from birds to bugs, see
  • Finally, check out this magazine’s daycamps resource guide to learn about all the ways kids can get to know their natural neighbors right here in town through a wide variety of local youth and nature organizations – including Nearby Nature!

—Beth Stein is the Executive Director of Nearby Nature, a non-profit education group dedicated to fostering appreciation of nature nearby and providing tools for ecological living. The group hosts summer daycamps in local parks as well as school year programs, special events, and restoration projects. For more information, call 541-687-9699 or see