Many families are in the process of planning spring and summer vacations.

Many families are in the process of planning spring and summer vacations. Parents are discussing how to fill up this wonderful free time. Some people will fill their children's schedules to the brim being involved in multiple and various types of structured day camps or week camps.

There are so many choices from sports to theater to art to nature. Other parents will just hang loose and flow with the wind, not involving their children in any structured events. I have always tried to strike a balance between structure and free time.

This summer I am going to focus on passing the "Green Torch" to my children. Each day I teach my children how to be eco-friendly. Some things they learn by witnessing and others by me explaining. A few years ago we moved out of the deep woods and nature of Appalachia into the Columbus area.

Both of my boys were born into the amazing nature of Hocking Hills and spent the first part of their life there. After about one and a half years of living in the city, my son Colin (5 years old at the time), said, "Mommy, the big people made a big mistake when they made the City."

When I asked Colin what the "mistake" was he replied, "They forgot to leave any trees." And, indeed those big people did! I was both pleased and sad that Colin made this observation-pleased that he noticed the difference and made such a simple, yet profound observation. On the other hand, I was saddened that his observation is true in so many areas around our country and the world. Most people do not have easy access to nature and all that it has to offer.

My boys and I have something wonderful in common. We have lived immersed in a very rural area and then were able to see the stark contrast by living in a large city. If we didn't live in that rural area where we made such wonderful connections to nature and learned firsthand about all life and ecosystems, we would have a very different outlook on and relationship with the environment. Most people today are born into and remain in either a suburban or urban environment, void of any true resemblance of nature.

A couple of generations ago the "Green Torch" burned brighter as more people resided in and near nature. With the shift to urban and suburban living and depletion of natural areas, this torch has grown dim. Although I am sure my sons will remember the nature that they grew up in, I know that it is important for me to keep this torch bright for them. Some of the ways that I intend to do this are by exposing them to as much rural, farm and natural life as possible this spring and summer.

In addition to exploring your local Metro Parks, conservatories, State Parks and preserves, venture out to some of the following places in Ohio this spring and summer. Call ahead as some places require prior arrangements.

1. Blue Rock Station-A green living sustainability center offering workshops on straw bale construction, solar cooking, natural gardening and more. or 740.674.4300. Located in Philo, OH, which is between Zanesville and McConnelsville.

2. Crown Point Ecological Center-Biologically diverse living laboratory offering youth and adult education programs. A model for sustainable agriculture and environmental education. or 330.668.8992. Located in Bath, OH, Northeastern Ohio.

3. Highlands Nature Sanctuary- An Arc of Appalachia preserve filled with springs, caves, rare plants and stunning rock cliffs. or 937.365.1935. Located in the Southwest quadrant of Ohio approximately 25 miles west of Chillicothe.

4. Stratford Ecological Center-Provides educational experiences for children (and adults) which foster a respectful relationship with nature. or 740.363.2548. Located just south of the city of Delaware, OH, off State Route 315 N. and State Route 23.

Visiting these places will help keep the ecological torch burning bright in your family and will benefit the Earth for future generations of all things living.