by LINDA FRABL | photos by Spark Photography

Adventures in Nature

The Swaisgood parents, who have lived in the wine country area of Scripps Ranch for eight years now, advocate unencumbered outdoor playtime in their sons’ lives (Owen, 10, and Luke, 8). As patriarch Ron explained, “We let our boys go ‘off leash’ to explore, climb, and play. Remember when you got to play all day, and only came in when the streetlight came on?” His wife, Janice, added, “Nature dominates our family calendar. Most weekends you will find us out on a trail exploring the local canyons, mountains, beaches, and desert.”

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Ron and Janice feel so strongly about emboldening other families to also adopt an active, open-air lifestyle that they created their own club in 2009, Family Adventures in Nature (www.meetup.com/familyadventuresinnature), which offers scheduled nature walks. Their club now has over 1,500 families on its mailing list! Janice elaborated, “Unstructured time in nature has been shown by research to make children healthier, happier, smarter, and more creative, and we wanted to help families tap into these wonderful beneficial qualities of nature. Our philosophy is to follow your child’s lead so it’s not about how many miles are logged but about enjoying the journey and taking time to play in the mud, climb a tree, or check out a beetle or a bird.”

“We let our boys go ‘off leash’ to explore, climb and play.”
– Ron Swaisgood

Nature factors into each parent’s profession as well. Ron is the director of Applied Animal Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, protecting endangered species in the wild. Janice works part-time as the director of Natural Families Network (specifically the Children and Nature Network), a nonprofit that encourages children to utilize nature in their everyday lives. Both parents are also active in the Sustainable Scripps Ranch organization, and Ron revealed, “We strive to live a green lifestyle in all ways possible.”

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As a former Spanish teacher, Janice has raised her children in a bilingual household. In addition, the sons are in the dual language program at Valley Elementary in Poway. When away from school, Owen and Luke love “getting dirty” in nature, as Janice described, but they also love soccer, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, reading, and, surprisingly, playing Minecraft videogames! Janice said, “We are not anti-technology, we just believe in balance.” Ron admitted, “Our boys spend less than two hours per week on video games, and about the same for TV, because we strive to spend most of our time living ‘real life!’”


AT-A-GLANCE

Parents: Ronald Ray Swaisgood and Janice Kay Lawhorn Swaisgood
Children: Owen Dyar Swaisgood (10, 4th Grade at Valley Elementary in the Dual Language Program); Luke Everett Swaisgood (8, 3rd Grade at Valley Elementary in the Dual Language Program)
Community: Wine Country since 2007
Parents’ Hometowns: Ron – Raleigh, NC; Janice – San Diego
Parents’ Occupations: Ron – Director, Applied Animal Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research; Janice – Director, Natural Families Network and Family Nature Clubs for the Children and Nature Network
Pets: A dog named Bean (schnoodle) and a gecko named Leia
Favorite Places to Visit in 92131: Chimney Canyon and other Scripps Ranch trails, Chili Peppers, Scripps Ranch Community Park (and other local parks), anywhere with friends and family!

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