Story by Jessica Deese and photos by Kate Reali
Growing up in the heart of Montrose, Brinkley Hutchings logged many hours playing on the beaches, streams and cliffs along this special stretch of the bay. When the bell ringing broke out from the bluff, it was her marine-biologist father signaling her home. Often, he joined her in adventures, fostering her sense of curiosity and connection with the natural world. It proved to be an inspirational foundation.
After finishing college in Wilmington, North Carolina, and working as an environmental advocate, “I noticed how kids were spending more time on screens and less time outside. I began to worry about the next generation of caretakers.” She put on her problem solving hat and enrolled in a program that equipped her to operate children’s outdoor education programs. After completion, she launched Nature Connect in Wilmington in 2016. Building on its success, she returned home and opened another here a year later. In addition to a preschool, they have offerings for homeschoolers, after school sessions, as well as outings for families. And yes, it’s all outside. “This is fulfilling and meaningful work. I’m not just teaching; we’re deepening our sense of wonder and awe, together.” There are no bells, just the joyful ringing of kids playing outside. Brinkley, we’re glad you came home. (More at natureconnectalabama.org)