By Chelsea Jandreau

The snow in southern Chautauqua County has been sparse so far this winter. The temperatures feel equally as topsy-turvy, going from warm spring-like days to below freezing in short periods of time. Even though the snow has not stuck around for very long, the occasional freezes mean that ice is present, if not somewhat of a guessing game. At Audubon, a cold but green winter means that our marshes and ponds have frozen over in varying degrees and our camps have been filled with the hunt for ice. 

Over the years of working with children in the outdoors, I have watched children be completely absorbed with exploring and playing on the ice. The kids approach ice with a few different goals. Some want to ice skate or slide like a penguin across the surface. In my experience, the most common undertaking when faced with a sheet of ice is figuring out how to break it, and honestly I can make that statement about just as many adults as well. With kids, that ice might be broken up and mined for play, dug through to see what’s underneath and tested to figure out whether or not it is safe to walk on. As the adult in the group, that last part right there is usually my first focus. Inevitably, someone or, in the case of our last camp, most everyone gets wet, whether by choice or by accident. 

Going outside with a group and interacting with ice never fails to remind me that the outdoors is not just a place for content-based lessons and exploring nature on a scientific level. It is also a place that allows us to experience the world on a sensory level, make connections, learn how our bodies move and balance, and learn some pretty effective lessons in cause and effect. Ice is a great example of the last one. 

Before you step on the ice, you have to figure out how to test the strength of the ice, and then decide on and execute the plan. Sometimes, you follow the plan, take a calculated risk and get wet anyway. All of your experiences in the outdoors, whether awe-inspiring, exciting, calming, or even miserable, help you make decisions the next time you are faced with a similar situation, both outdoors or in your daily life.

When we go into nature, we can learn far more than how to identify a tree by its leaves or the scientific names of each butterfly. You choose how you want to experience the outdoors. If you are someone who wants to learn more information about the ecology or biology found in your local park, go for it, but if you want to go outside with headphones and decompress on a walk in the woods or around a lake, you can do that too. People connect with nature in ways that connect to their life. This changes depending on your current situation or even just as you age.

This is demonstrated in the innumerable quotes, stories and essays about nature. For decades, if not centuries, people have equated their personal human experiences with the natural processes existing and happening all around them. Just type ‘nature quotes’ into any search engine and you will be facing down hundreds of words, metaphors and reflections about lessons learned from nature, how nature makes different people feel and the appreciation of nature’s form and functions. 

What lessons do you take with you when you head back home? Is it how to balance on ice walking down the sidewalk, remembering to take a breath and relax when in a stressful situation, or how to test the ice and how to keep going when you end up cold and wet anyway?

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.

Chelsea Jandreau is a Nature Educator at Audubon Community Nature Center.