Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Students Step Up

Banner from Deerfield Academy

A group of schools have united under the banner of The Green Schools Alliance to focus on the issues of Climate Change and Sustainability.

They will make a difference.

New Fast Food

Andrew Sullivan points out a new form of fast food, the cheeseburger in a can. How many grams of saturated fat?...

Would you eat this? Would our kids? You can buy it online, only 3.95 Euros...

Off Topic

Yeah this is not on topic, but here it is anyways...from the NY Times (may require login):
“Did, did you just double dip that chip?” Timmy asks incredulously, later objecting, “That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!” Finally George retorts, “You dip the way you want to dip, I’ll dip the way I want to dip,” and aims another used chip at the bowl. Timmy tries to take it away, and the scene ends as they wrestle for it.
and at Clemsen University:

The team of nine students instructed volunteers to take a bite of a wheat cracker and dip the cracker for three seconds into about a tablespoon of a test dip. They then repeated the process with new crackers, for a total of either three or six double dips per dip sample. The team then analyzed the remaining dip and counted the number of aerobic bacteria in it. They didn’t determine whether any of the bacteria were harmful, and didn’t count anaerobic bacteria, which are harder to culture, or viruses.
The power of popular culture I guess.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Abbey's Birthday

Today is Edward Abbey's birthday. He was an inspiration to many of us, who in our youth devoured his books as we explored the mountains and the rivers and the deserts.

Ed once said:
"If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making. He will make himself an exile from the earth and then will know at last, if he is still capable of feeling anything, the pain and agony of final loss."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Press Roundup

Missed this article last month, worth reading as the annual Christmas Bird Count is a great way to introduce kids to birding.

Dr. Butcher said that habitat loss, caused by “the tremendous growth of the megalopolis” around New York, has already caused the demise of the northern bobwhite, and “has had a pretty dramatic effect” on kestrel populations as well as other species here.

Audubon suggests that citizen action may help forestall the trend. The federal farm bill under consideration would call for wetlands and grasslands protection. It also includes the Conservation Reserve Program, which would encourage private landowners to set aside habitat land. Audubon welcomes grass-roots support for such legislative initiatives, and the Christmas bird count, society administrators say, can serve as a rallying point for this kind of organized advocacy. They also suggest remedies on the home front, like nurturing native backyard plants to create new bird habitats, but are concerned that a new generation of nature stewards is being lost to the lure of the indoor screen.

This Oped from Toledo Ohio hits the mark.

Paradise lost can't be found by watching a movie or playing a video game. But it's waiting outside to awe those drawn to its wonder. Seasonal offerings are open all year for anyone with the time and interest and need to reconnect with a world where man-made has no meaning. So consider taking a walk on the wild side before you become a bear to live with, growling about no time for anything but cheap gruel at the drive-through.
Winter activities in Wisconsin.

Now that Janice and Orlando Jansen, both 68, are retired, every day is a snow day.

Nature, even on the most frigid of winter days, is an adventure waiting to happen and to be shared with their local grandchildren, Eleanor, 10, and Alex, 8.

"There's so much to do (outside)," the Kaukauna woman said. "Our kids, when they were little, you'd have to tie them down to keep them in the house when there was a nice snowfall."

Unfortunately, the video gaming industry is booming.

"The video game industry set the pace over all others in 2007, with record-breaking sales, off-the-charts consumer demand, and innovation reaching from galactic exploration to guitar simulation," said ESA CEO and president Michael D. Gallagher. "On average, an astonishing 9 games were sold every second of every day of the year."
And Skiing in Colorado is down.

DENVER — The Colorado ski industry’s lift ticket sales fell 12.5 percent from the beginning of the season in October through Dec. 31 compared to the same period last winter, a state trade association announced Thursday.

Colorado Ski Country USA reported that its 26 member resorts logged about 2.87 million skier and snowboard rider visits during the first reporting period. A visit is defined as the purchase of a full- or half-day lift ticket. Ticket sales were down about 412,000 from a record-setting beginning to the season in 2006-07.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Do We Care if it's Real?

I have written about the artificial whitewater parks in the past. Do they keep us away from nature? I think not.

While the real thing is the best, who's to say the parks aren't getting us out there?

Here's a new essay in Paddler.

In contrast, there has been a concerted movement among whitewater aficionados and economic developers to create play waves, rapids, and even entire circular whitewater rivers run by pumps. The goal here is different; it is to maximize our fun by changing the river—or even creating an artificial river—to suit our desires. There are many arguments pro and con. Some assert these changes will bring kayaking tourists to mountain towns or fill a need in places where there is no river or whitewater. The parks would help people hone their skills and introduce a huge number of spectators to a sport they’d otherwise never see. Plus, if we have the power to do it, why not maximize our fun?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Audubon Medal

I had previously mentioned Rich Louv being the next recipient of the Audubon Medal for his work with Children and Nature. Here's a formal press release on the honor.
"Louv's success in building public awareness and action to address "Nature Deficit Disorder" represents a vital contribution to both the future of our environment and the health of our children," said Audubon President John Flicker. "It will fall on the shoulders of our next generation to address the huge environmental problems of today and the new challenges that lie ahead so it is critical that we narrow the divide between young people and the natural world."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

High Thrill Value

From, check this out.

Getting Away From the TV

Here's a recent community calendar entry from Cuyahoga Valley NP.


Moonlight sledding — The National Park Service is sponsoring a moonlight sledding program from 7 to 9 p.m. at Kendall Hills in the Cuyahoga Valley. Meet at Pine Hollow off Quick Road in Boston Township. Bring your own sled. You might hear a few coyote howls. A hike will be staged if there's not enough snow. For ages 7 and up. Advance reservation required — call 216-524-1497.

If the idea of moonlight sledding can't get us away from the TV on a Friday night, what can? Moonlight skiing is also a blast. For those with more advanced skills, here's more on that from the Rocky Mountain News.

I once did a TV piece for WFSB in Hartford, where we went out skiing by moonlight in the wee hours of the morning. It was a blast and easy to do, all you need is good weather, snow and a full moon. No flashlights needed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


We used to skate a lot on at a place called Great Pond, which would freeze over nicely and allow us to skate all over its 25 acre size. Especially fun was skating by full moon, you just did not need a light.
I continued my skating later, as a women's ice hockey coach ata boarding school. We would rag the young ladies out at 5:30 am every day to get them over to the rink. Despite the early hours and a mixed record, we all had a blast.

Here's a new article about getting kids out to skate in Philly.
"I'm always amazed at these kids who have no experience, who have such a good time with it and do so well," said Wilfoort, 48, of Emsworth. "They're like, 'What do you mean we have to get off the ice? We don't want to get off.' Then they discover there's music inside or they can roast marshmallows on a bonfire and they're on to the next thing."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nature's ABCs

Check out this alphabet from nature.

Overseer of Butterflies

Author and biologist Bob Pyle coined the term "extinction of experience" and has been an inspiration to all trying to reconnect people (children) with nature. Read The Thunder Tree for more.

In Bob's latest essay in Orion, he discusses his plans for this year--to travel the country as the Overseer of Butterflies. Being one of the world's experts on butterflies, I think it's a great fit. Bob's been a colleague in our conservation work for several years now, so if he comes through VA, we'll buy him dinner.

Monday, January 21, 2008

More Recent Press

On fishing, from Gainesville.
Last summer while hiking along the Suwannee River to take sturgeon pictures, I encountered a group of Boy Scouts from South Carolina who were 11 days downriver. They were canoeing downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, camping in tents on sandbars; it was a trip they won't forget.

At night, they lay in their tents just after dark, listening to jumping sturgeon. The previous night they reportedly counted 800 splashes before falling asleep. No cell phones were allowed to break the spell. Regrettably, they didn't have a catfish trotline. However, they were getting a good lesson in the harmony found in nature.


Stranger danger from Cleveland.
"We need to stop wringing our hands about kids and computer games," said Louv, "and take them outdoors. . . . Clevelanders are lucky to have a fine park system where they can take their children to explore the outdoors. When you get Johnny or Judy outside, it is going to help their development."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

From VA

Here's a great column.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his journals that the love of Nature was not “natural” to most people, but an inclination to be cultivated. Sitting on his horse beside a man prospecting for timber, he realized that the beauty he saw in the poplar forest they were riding through was invisible to this man, who only saw money to be made from planks. Jefferson attributed this oblivion to a lack of true education.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Skiing

It's a bright and crisp day here in Northern Virginia, the day after a messy snow storm. For nine years, Fridays in January and February were always fun, because it was ski day at my daughter's school.

For decades, she and her classmates would head en masse to Bryce Ski Area. We're talking essentially the whole school goes to ski and snowboard. Every kid was required to take a lesson, and most participated in an end of the season mini-olympics competition. every kid was outside, on the mountain. No computers or televisions, although plenty of greasy food in the lodge. The head of the ski school even yodels to call them to the lessons. When kids start doing this in kindergarten, it makes skiing a sport for life for most of them.

So today, now that my daughter is in high school, I'm lamenting the loss of Friday ski day, and I'm sure she feels the same way.

The picture at the top is a screenshot from the Bryce webcam, today, Friday, and the kids you see are from the school.


Thanks to Steel Valley Outdoors for making Children and Nature Journal their "Site of the Week".

Look, it’s simple: I’m selfish. I want to hunt and fish, hike and camp when I’m finally ready to retire. In order to do that, the space needs to be there and needs to be accessible. And I truly believe that if no one cares, if the next generation sees the natural world only as some weird and alien antiquity, kind of like Black and White movies, then it won’t be there for me.

Amen. Like the Energizer bunny, we need to be relentless in reminding folks that if we lose the connection, then all that we do today for nature will be in vain. Nature is part of our DNA, and to lose contact with it would leave a gap that all of the burgers, American Idol shows, and XBoxes can never fill.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow Day

Been crazy at work and then today we have a 1/2 day because of snow. We used to have lots of snow days in CT when I was a kid, and we would wait for the snow plow to pile up the snow at the end of our driveway. We'd then use the snowblower to clear the driveway and pile up even more snow , which made a great basis for a snow fort. Here are some example of recent snow forts.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's Winter, Go Outside!

Back when there was "real" snowfall, We used to consider snowshoes as tools rather than recreational devices. You needed them just to travel in the woods on other than untracked surfaces. The outdoor industry has done a great job of boosting the image of snowshoes to the point that folks use them even when the snow is not really deep enough. As the technology and design has improved, it's now like skiing. That's a good thing as it get more people out in the woods.

During those big snow years, we also would look for the really big snowdrifts, places where snow would blow into a small draw and really pile up, so we could start digging snow caves. I remember one we dug, maybe in 1979, up in NH, that was big enough to park a volkswagon in. An then there's the annual snow cave dig at Gray Knob on Washington's Birthday, but that's another story.

The cave at Gray Knob.

What's this mean? With climate change and lessening snow amounts, the frequency of really good snowpacks is not what it was. But before we even get kids digging snow caves, they have to be willing to go outside when it's cold. The frequency of that is not what it was either. Here are some tips.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Getting Them Outside, On Foot

Seems that their are few things more fundamental than being able to walk to school. The CDC has an interesting site on just that topic.

Couple this info with a recent report from an Arizona paper-tips on getting kids to play outside.

Eaglecam Update

Things are starting to hop at the NCTC eagle nest. The pair of eagles have been steadily preparing the nest, and were observed mating several times last week. Hopefully we'll get some viable eggs this year.

To keep an eye on things, check here. There will also be live video and audio available within the month.

Best times to see the birds right now is between 7 and 8 am EST, and 4 to 7 PM EST.

You can read the eaglecam blog here.

Update--He's been standing there for 2 1/2 hours...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Changin' Times

More from John Corrigan in Concord NH.
This is where Louv's philosophy of describing a better future rings true. How much better would the lives of pedestrians and bicyclists be if took a new look at snow removal priorities? Why does deep snow remain on the edges of major routes for days, while drivers can get around within hours after the snow stops falling?

As an addendum to John's essay, there's a new winter bike out there called the Pugsley that lets you cruise over snow and ice with ease...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Subaru Jumps On Board

Check out the latest edition of Subaru Drive Magazine.

A Trail to Every Classroom

I'm hoping to attend a briefing on this program today, delivered by high school students from Middletown, MD, working with the National Park Service and the ATC.
A Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) is a three-season, multi-disciplinary professional development series for educators aimed at providing the inspiration, knowledge and skills to transform classroom teaching into effective and exciting place-based education.

Rich Louv says:
"The Trail to Every Classroom Progam engages young people in nature. It brings together Trail managers, teachers and children, allowing a safe pace to engage in physical exercise, explore nature, learn about the Trail as a natural and cultural resource, and collectively get their hands dirty. This is exactly the kind of program we need to see more of as a way to connect children to nature."

More here.

Update: The presentation was great. The kids have a blog that tracked their experience. See it here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Obesity News

The pot calling the kettle black?

Read this.

Interesting perspective working here. Maybe it works both ways.

Not to let the Big Mac and its 10 grams of saturated fat off the hook, but hasn't the incidence of childhood obesity increased in a somewhat parallel fashion to the rise of video games?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Technology and the Outdoors


We want to get kids outside, away from the television, computers and video games.

Can we do that by using those same items of technology to help lure them outside?

I know a number of folks that say the only way to engage kids now is to infuse technology into kid's outdoor experiences. Using a GPS or video camera are good examples of this. But what about using the internet to introduce kids to a wild place, like Grand Teton National Park? The Park Service is trying this out at GTNP and other locations with efforts like video podcasting and what they call "webisodes".

Here's a recent story that describes what they're doing.

I'm still on the fence on this, but I'm sure that going the way my Luddite friends want to go, which is: "get the kids out like we got out, we don't need any technology, ever" may not always work. On the other hand, I'm intrigued by Lowell Monke thoughts on this-- he once said "throw out the computers and give the kids shovels!" There are prices to pay for a reliance on technology.

It does seem that many kids today view technology as more than an accessory, and that shows a root of the nature deficit problem , but also gives opportunities on ways to reconnect the kids, as long as we don't forget our real goal.

Let's give the NPS a chance to show if these new tools do in fact get kids back outside in the Parks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


In a column from Huntington, WV, the writer speaks of Sensory Processing Disorder, another by product of too many video game hours and too few nature hours.
While video games and television may have some educational purposes, they do not allow for full use of the senses. The sights, sounds, smells and textures of the woods allow children to experience the world in ways that video games cannot. There is a growing body of evidence that children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a disorder in which children misinterpret signals from their senses, may benefit from sensory integration training. SPD can lead to symptoms like lack of coordination, difficulty in concentrating, and behavioral problems. A growing body of evidence suggests that allowing children to experience nature stimulates all of the senses, and therefore facilitates sensory integration, decreasing symptoms of SPD.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Some Perspective and Good Deeds From the Northeast

Here's a Monday editorial from Great Barrington.
And our elementary school science teacher, Joseph Cadbury, made sure all of us took field trips to the Wissahickon, turning over every rock in the hillsides and stream bottoms. Louv suggests that most schools no longer have a science teacher who makes it his or her business to get pupils outside. School are discouraged from such pursuits by tight budgets or impending high stakes tests.

Here's more on some good work going on in Upstate New York.
"We put ourselves into the same places the animals live, the marginal spaces," Drake said. "We've actually seen deer and ... rabbits, because we've been in the brush. We go to the thickets."
The Tuesday after-school program at the West Village and Parkside Gardens apartment complexes can be transformative for participants, many of whom have little to no prior experience in the wild, Drake said.

I too had science teachers that would get us outside, and some of those classes had a big impact on me. One class, the Science of Survival, had us outside for weeks. It's funny though, I returned to my CT high school almost a decade ago to bring them a curriculum guide on Aldo Leopold that we had developed. I met the school principal and the field ecology teacher, and the poor guys didn't know who Leopold was. Teach field ecology and not know who Leopold is! That was disappointing, and this is in one of the top public schools in the country!? I won't say where to avoid them the embarrassment.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Disconnects in the Right

Rich Louv makes it into a column of an industry-backed anti-enviro Fox News Columnist.

The issue of a disconnect between people (children) and nature has always been one that crosses political boundaries. Even the far right Free Republic has had threads in the past where their members recognize the disconnect between kids and nature. The fact that the anti-green pundits are questioning the issue makes me wonder what they're afraid of. Do they want people disconnected from nature? You answer that one.

By the way, three cheers for Newt for bringing up the issue in his book.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cold Runs

It's cold here today, but the forecast is for 60 by Sunday. It was a brown Christmas here in VA, although Connecticut, where I grew up had some snow cover, enough to sled on. We were relentless in our sledding and tobogganing as kids, and the climate back then allowed for 90% of our Christmas vacations to be white. I came across this column from Mississippi, and the writer's experiences are really similar to my own as a kid, although I did stay off the ice unless I was convinced it was thick enough. I wonder if the same is true with others?

Unlike too many of today’s kids, I spent my childhood out in the elements. I was free to play and roam and discover. There was certainly the risk of injury and all the other things parents worry about today, but such things didn’t concern us in the ‘70s — all to my benefit.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year Briefs

Happy New Year.

We had fun skiing, too bad it was raining. Regardless, we got some good runs in and my daughter skied until she was nearly soaked.

Here's some recent happenings:

Some folks in Sacramento head out.

A columnist in Richmond rejects the campaign hype and joins the reality community.

The Navy helps rehabilitate a popular nature center in California.

and the Berkshire Eagle gets some reader response:
In no other issue of this column was the reader response as large as the one which appeared after this past December 2 article dealing with the disconnection of our youth with nature. All who corresponded agreed that there is a real problem. Several commented on how their dads took them out hunting, fishing or camping and got them interested in nature at a very young age, and their love for the outdoors never waned.