Friday, February 29, 2008
I grew up doing boy scout activities, a proud member of Troop 76 in Simsbury, Connecticut. One of the activities that we all looked forward to every year was the Klondike Derby, a competition, usually held in a wooded area of several hundred acres, where we were required to pull a large sled, filled with our camping gear, to various stations where we would have scoutcraft challenges presented to us. This was an all day thing that culminated with a winter camp out, and back then, in the middle of February, that meant cold weather. If the temps got below zero, we would get a "blue nose" patch to go with our Klondike Derby ribbon. beats the heck out of playing x-box all day. These types of experiences make long lasting ties to the outdoors.
Klondike Derbies are still going strong today. Here's a report on one in Minnesota.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
My daughter was required to run a mile just about every day at her elementary school in Virginia. Here's an article about a school in Mississippi that's doing the same thing, coupled with nutritional lessons, to great benefit of their students.
After seeing studies that ranked Mississippi among the nation's leaders in adult and childhood obesity, Sweeney and Tzotzolas decided to make daily exercise a point of emphasis this year. The easiest way to do that was to take the class outside for a run, with the ultimate goal of a mile.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I fished constantly as a kid, and look forward to some fishing on a river float trip this spring up in Maine.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has a good site up on youth fishing (one of many, many youth fishing sites), and it's worth a look. They consider kids fishing a solid investment in their future and that of our natural world.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Currently up on the iTunes website is a trail guide of "The Meadow," which is a natural area directly south of the Market Street Bridge.This is being done in other places as well, and I must admit I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not. The Luddite in me says "hell no!" But, I trend toward calling it good right now because of the Gen Y connection with technology, but have yet to make a final decision for support.
"The Meadow has many grasses, herbs, and small shrubs and trees in it," said Rachel Curtis, a Wilkes biology major. "I mainly worked on podcasts concerning the plants that may be found in the natural area, but there's also a podcast describing the history of Kirby Park, which is very interesting."
The National Park Service is also doing this work at places Like Yellowstone and Grand Teton, to good effect.
Monday, February 25, 2008
According to the Center for Environmental Health, children's contact with nature helps to ease attention-deficit disorder, aids cognitive development, enhances creativity, and reduces stress. And of course, with obesity at a critical level in this country, kids need to be running around outside now more than ever. A new report by the Nature Conservancy states that attendance has been falling at America's national parks since the 1980s. They blame videophilia, but we can also see connections with Louv's findings. Other reports indicate that early positive experience with nature fosters a strong sense of stewardship and environmental responsibility. In other words, if we want the next generation to take care of the planet, we'd better let them play outside on it now.
The coalition talked about outdoor activities building self-esteem. But I've never seen an overweight kid be happy about playing sports with overly competitive peers. The program will need other nonsport activities to cater to the group to which this fund is directed. Those competitive kids, however, will get bored if not competing to the best of their abilities.
Still a lot of work to do.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Screaming bugles, high whistles and sounds mimicking a child screaming through a plastic tube blared through the Reno-Sparks Convention Center as callers competed for cash and prizes in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's World Elk Calling Championships.
The location of this year's national convention gave several Reno children an opportunity to give it a try.
"It was most thrilling," said Maddie Smith, 9, a fourth-grader at Jessie Beck Elementary.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Watch fireflies. Generations of kids have been fascinated on warm summer nights watching the off and on flash of the “lightning bugs.” Catch a few and put them in a jar.Read it here.
Light a campfire. What’s more fun than watching the flames dance as you roast marshmallows, tell scary stories and have a sing-a-long.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wind Watch Golf Club a couple of weeks ago, golf aficionados all, wondered out loud about the reasons. Was it the economy? Changing family dynamics? A glut of golf courses? A surfeit of etiquette rules — like not letting people use their cellphones for the four hours it typically takes to play a round of 18 holes?
Or was it just the four hours?
Looking down the Plunge at Telluride, 3,000 feet of turns to Town
My high school had a great ski club and we would get up north to places like Stowe and Glen Ellen (now Sugarbush North) several times a winter. Our knees back then were flexible and strong, and we would crash down through the moguls, it was really a blast. Ten years later we did the same thing at places like Vail and my favorite western mountain, Telluride, but we were freeheeling then on skinny skis, which in my case tough on the knees, but still a blast.
So in honor of youthful knees, check out this list of top ten Mogul Resorts.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Glendening told me that only 6 percent of children ages 6 to 13 spend any time in outdoor unstructured play per week. Most kids are too busy with scheduled activities or "plugged in" to be outside playing.
The Museum of Life and the Environment will connect the next generation with its surroundings.
More on play and ADHD from the UK.
Are children diagnosed with ADHD simply suffering from play starvation? This disturbing possibility emerges from studies carried out in America over the past 10 years.
Hyper parenting in Canada.
Over-the-top child rearing is nothing new, but it's this latest wave -- 10-year-olds scheduling extracurricular activities with BlackBerrys, teenagers suffering from sports injuries previously only witnessed in professional athletes and a stream of Prozac and Ritalin flowing from the drugstore to lunch boxes -- that's earned the title hyper-parenting.
An OpEd from New Hampshire hits the mark.
It is these connections to nature, the sense of wonder in the moment and the memories that last a lifetime, these are what we need to provide to our children and our children's children. Without real experiences in nature ... the dirty fingernail, smell-the-earth kind ... how will they come to care about preserving the natural world? It is up to us to turn off the television, put aside the mouse, and choose nature with our children, for their future and the future of all life on Earth.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
So how do you choose a summer camp?
This document provides some good advice.
The American Camp Association also has a search tool.
Monday, February 18, 2008
The Minnesota DNR just completed focus groups with people who don't use the parks who said they thought they and their children might get "bored" at a state park. Some mothers of young children in the group cited safety concerns and described the outdoors as "unpredictable" and "uncontrollable."
-- From 2001 to 2007, the median age of state-park users increased from 36 to 40, while the median age of Minnesotans increased less than a year. Also, the number of park visitors younger than 45 dropped 10 percent, while visitation by people older than 45 grew by 10 percent. Park visitation by children younger than 13 declined by 5 percent.
and if that weren't enough,
"A lot of people don't know how to make a campfire without using gasoline,'' said naturalist Linda Radimecky at Fort Snelling. "That scares us, so we'll show them how."
And so it goes, and grows.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
In the end, it comes down to a matter of trade-offs. There are only six hours in a school day, only another six or so till bedtime, and adults are forever trying to cram those hours with activities that are productive, educational and (almost as an afterthought) fun. Animal findings about how play influences brain growth suggest that playing, though it might look silly and purposeless, warrants a place in every child’s day. Not too overblown a place, not too sanctimonious a place, but a place that embraces all styles of play and that recognizes play as every bit as essential to healthful neurological development as test-taking drills, Spanish lessons or Suzuki violin.
In a time of climate change, habitat loss and global terrorism, this does not bode well for America's standing in the world. It also results in less contact with nature and soon perhaps, a disregard for the natural world that could be our undoing.
Ms. Jacoby, whose book came out on Tuesday, doesn’t zero in on a particular technology or emotion, but rather on what she feels is a generalized hostility to knowledge. She is well aware that some may tag her a crank. “I expect to get bashed,” said Ms. Jacoby, 62, either as an older person who upbraids the young for plummeting standards and values, or as a secularist whose defense of scientific rationalism is a way to disparage religion.
Alarmist? Maybe, but I don't think this quote from one of those Fox TV shows is funny:
Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. “I thought Europe was a country,” she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. “Hungry?” she said, eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s a country? I’ve heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I’ve never heard of it.”
Connecticut has an asset today in Gina McCarthy, who has emerged as a leader in the movement to connect kids with nature. The press in Connecticut has written about the topic recently, here's some of those stories:
From the Meriden paper.
This deserves a lot more investigation," said Tom Morrissey, the DEP's bureau chief for outdoor recreation, and a Meriden resident. "Over the last two generations we've seen a real change towards indoor play. When I was a kid, it was punishment to stay inside. Now, they don't know how to camp or hike long distances. They don't really know what to do when they're outside, and you don't see parents teaching their kids."And some thoughts from the head of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association.
"No Child Left Inside" aims to get families back out into the parks and forests, and through two successful years of programs such as "Great Park Pursuit" — a game based loosely on the TV show "Amazing Race" that sends families to eight state parks following sets of clues — the initiative has been successful. "No Child Left Inside" has earned nationwide recognition and the "Great Park Pursuit" has spread across New England. Until now, though, the initiative had been unaccompanied by increases in funding.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
In the oft-quoted "Birches," Robert Frost muses about a boy who lives too far from town to learn baseball so instead spends time in the woods swinging in the trees. "He always kept his poise / to the top branches, climbing carefully / with the same pains you use to fill a cup / up to the brim, and even above the brim," Frost writes. "Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, / kicking his way down through the air to the ground." This sort of unstructured, imaginative play is increasingly lacking in an indoor, scheduled world—to children's great detriment, argues Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, a book that explores research linking the absence of nature in children's lives to rising rates of obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Newsweek reports :
Yet now that ideal is threatened—according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—by a "fundamental and pervasive shift" since at least the 1980s away from the activity known to Thoreau as "walking in the woods," now designated "nature-based recreation." The study—not coincidentally funded by The Nature Conservancy—warns of a danger Thoreau could not foresee: that the natural world cannot be saved if people aren't willing to set foot in it.MSNBC talks videophilia, posting an AP story on the study.
As people spend more time communing with their televisions and computers, the impact is not just on their health, researchers say. Less time spent outdoors means less contact with nature and, eventually, less interest in conservation and parks.
A "Nation of Indoorsman" , watch the video on NBC News. Eighty million fewer visits...
From the Abstract:
The four variables with the greatest per capita participation were visits to Japanese National Parks, U.S. State Parks, U.S. National Parks, and U.S. National Forests, with an average individual participating 0.74–2.75 times per year. All four time series are in downtrends, with linear regressions showing ongoing losses of –1.0% to –3.1% per year. The longest and most complete time series tested suggest that typical declines in per capita nature recreation began between 1981 and 1991, are proceeding at rates of –1.0% to –1.3% per year, and total to date –18% to –25%.
To access the whole study, you need a subscription, so here's a story from the News Tribune in Tacoma.
Pergams went on to say, “The replacement of vigorous outdoor activities by sedentary, indoor videophilia has far-reaching consequences for physical and mental health, especially in children. Videophilia has been shown to be a cause of obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders and poor academic performance.”And another from the Chicago Tribune:
The study analyzed possible factors for the decline and found four primary ones: an increase in gas prices, along with an increase in the hours people were spending on the Internet, playing video games and watching movies.
After that study, Pergams said they got a lot of flak (my word, not theirs) from people who attributed the declining visits to such things as excessive park admissions fees and decaying infrastructure -- rather than people not wanting to get off their patooties.
These two links criticize the movement with rather thin justifications, but you can decide how well they do.
Reason Magazine speaks up (or mocks?) about attempts to get urban kids outdoors.
New Mexican environmental groups suggest a novel way of fighting child obesity: Bus public school students to the under-visited state parks and generally force them outside. It's not clear what magical fat-fighting properties the state parks have, but it's indisputable that busing students around and training teachers to "integrate their lesson plans with existing outdoor educational opportunities like state parks" costs money.It is troublesome that this NM tax proposal may have made the term "No Child Left Inside" a political term, which imho would be a troublesome obstacle to getting kids reconnected to nature. Failed tax proposal aside, it is funny how Reason seems to take this apparently negative stand on solid ways of getting kids outside, especially when I know of a former leader of Reason who seems to have shown solid support in the past for the issue of reconnecting kids to nature.
I had to shake my head with some of what was said here, an "argument" that Reason editor above calls a deft debunk.
Just like the $1.5 million “Kids in the Woods” program proposed by the Forest Service last May, there is no credible evidence for a new “nature deficit disorder” children are claimed to suffer from, or that getting them outside and teaching them about the environment will eradicate childhood obesity or attention deficit disorder.Okey dokey, I think I missed the deft debunk.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Now the American Spectator attacks the No Child Left Behind Movement. Funny how the author immediately discounts all of the work and research done simply because a state proposes a tax, which I'm told died in committee.The article also plugs the importance of Nintendo to kid's health.
Fiscal arguments aside, what about the concerns about kids' health and their appreciation of the great outdoors? Interestingly, physical education teachers have had demonstrated success by using indoor play as a reliable way to fight obesity in schools across the country, using the same tools that the No Child Left Insiders want to tax.Nobody is saying that exercise in a gymnasium is not a tool to fight childhood obesity.
That's right, the popular Dance Dance Revolution and even Nintendo Wii games have been incorporated into P.E. classrooms to promote physical activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study of this phenomenon published in the journal Pediatrics, with some fascinating findings.
Then she wraps up with this:
There's the real purpose behind the No Child Left Inside initiative. It's not "for the children"; it's for the activists.Perhaps the author of this piece, a policy analyst for the American Taxpayer's Union (she specializes in monetary policy, the housing market, and brand loyalty), should stop cherrypicking her research and look at the whole issue of nature deficit.
A postscript, the purpose of this site is not to examine tax proposals, so we'll have no comment on the merits or problems of such a tax.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.
Monday, February 11, 2008
There is a growing body of research in the U.S. that has found homework isn't all it's cracked up to be, and a growing number of parents who say because of homework and other demands, children have no downtime; one writer has even gone so far as to say today's children have a "nature deficit disorder." Some American elementary schools have cut back or entirely banned homework.I don't recall doing much homework in the early grades, but my daughter had it piled on from fourth grade forward, taking up a lot of time.
It would be interesting to get a wider view of this issue, across cultural lines, to see if this really is a factor. But based on the reasoning in this article, it sure seems like elementary school homework is a contributing factor to nature deficit.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Here's an oped piece written by a college student who is the oped editor of the Wilkes University Newspaper.
How would American children feel if their government forced them to play outside? How would they feel if after a long day of school and work American children were penalized by the government for playing video games and watching TV? How might American parents feel if the federal government implemented a special tax on televisions and video games in order to deter obesity and force their children to engage in more physical activity?Perhaps the author should read up on the whole issue before making statements like "the government wants to tax you and force your kids to play outside". Discounting the issue of nature deficit is simply irresponsible and our kids and society deserve more. Anyways, read this guys thoughts and decide for yourself.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I worked for the RMC rather than the AMC in the Whites, and used to have a little fun at the AMC's expense, but despite that, we think the AMC does a great job...
It’s important for children to get into the outdoors, and the Appalachian Mountain Club has long been committed to helping young people do that. Nearly 10,000 youth each year are directly involved in outdoor activities through AMC’s a Mountain Classroom and Youth Opportunities Program. Another offering that’s especially popular with young people seeking to develop outdoor skills while spending time with their peers is Teen Wilderness Adventures.
The program provides teenagers with instruction in such outdoor skills as backpacking, rock-climbing and paddling as they also gain appreciation for the natural environment, build self-esteem and learn the value of teamwork.
Friday, February 8, 2008
“Once Upon a Wetland…” is a project of Oak Grove School in partnership with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Meiners Oaks Elementary School, and Nordhoff High School. Our goal is to connect these students with their own backyard, their home, their place-- in other words, their watershed-- by engaging them in the restoration and stewardship of the historic wetland located on the Ojai Meadow Preserve, a 58-acre open space directly adjacent to all three schools.
More on this, with an interview, at The Cleanest Line.
Read the first few chapters of Rod Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind and you can get a clear picture of what the early settlers from Europe thought of the wilds of the New World. The forests and mountains were dark, scary, and filled with evil. They would huddle in their cabins at night, worried about strange noises and ready to defend themselves from the bad things that lived out there. The only way to deal with this threat was to clear and tame the land, by bringing in light.
Shoot forward to the twentieth century, where camping was a favored pastime, a healthy and normal thing to do. We had pretty much gotten over the dark evil fears, although I remember reading Night of Grizzly when we were camped out in Glacier National Park, and it scared the heck out of me.
Today, we still have folks camping out in fairly large numbers, but some are suggesting that camping may not be a "normal" thing to do anymore. The normal thing, according to a columnist's words I read this morning, is to sit at home in front of the TV. Camping is scary and dangerous. There are so many dangers and the folks you might meet are not normal.
They suggest the proposed campground would attract strange people. Sadly, that's true.
Camping isn't something normal people do any more.
Normal people sit indoors, in front of the television. Their children also are indoors, but watching television in another room.
Has the information revolution pulled our society closer to the point that our ancestors were at? My answer is go camping.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
On Long Island, sportsmen recognize the value of outdoor sports.
In Suffolk County, two notable programs have been promoting hunter safety and outdoor education for kids for close to 15 years. Since 1994, the Youth Conservation Program has taught kids safety through a sportsman education program geared toward junior hunters 12 to 15 years old. During the two-day program they gain a better understanding of conservation, and nature, as well as a hefty respect for safe gun handling and proficiency. The Youth Waterfowl Program, established in 1998, also promotes youth hunting while teaching wetlands and waterfowl conservation. Well over 500 kids have successfully completed these programs since their inception. I would be willing to bet that many of them are out there right now becoming some of the leaders in our society, and stewards of our natural resources, forging ahead on their way to having successful careers and families of their own, with a greater appreciation for what really goes on in the natural world around them.In Illinois, the Movement spreads...
• Explore a forest preserve nearby after work or during a lunch hour. Find a place you like and make it part of your day, visiting early and late in all seasons. Take a notebook and draw, paint or write.
• Take children hiking when they’re young in a backpack-style baby carrier that holds them at your eye level. When they’re big enough to walk on their own, let them. Take them to a place with a pond or a stream and let them throw stones, touch the water with sticks or do whatever they want that seems safe and non-destructive.
• Encourage older children to visit parks and preserves with their friends. If you have safety concerns, make sure they take a cell phone.
• Encourage your elementary school to participate in Mighty Acorns, a nature stewardship program for fourth- through sixth-graders.
Winter sports athletes lament the loss of snow, and talk about climate change...
"When I was a kid, I remember walking in tunnels of snow," says 25-year-old alpine skier Steven Nyman, who won his first World Cup downhill race in 2007. "It was like that Arcade Fire song where they talk about digging tunnels in the snow to get from house to house. Now it seems like it only happens every five to 10 years.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The conservationists believe that the electronic world has supplanted the natural world as the leading diversion. Their statistical analysis shows that the increase in video games, movie rentals and other electronic entertainment most closely matches the decrease in camping and park visits, as opposed to income, vacation time, park overcrowding, foreign travel or other potential causes.
Pergams and Zaradic plan to tackle the fear issue next. "If fear is a factor, what kinds of fear?" Pergams asks. "Fear of the unknown, fear of animals, fear of getting lost, fear of crime, fear of disease, all kinds of different fears that might come into play and to what extent they might play into the decline." In addition, they hope to compare the results of children's exposure to "virtual" nature online or on television with the real thing.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
The NCTC eaglecam was down over the weekend, and some were worried that we would miss the laying of the first egg. No worries, I said, as the last three years eggs were laid around the 14th of Feb. Well, the cam came back up yesterday and there was an eagle sitting in the nest, and one egg...
Monday, February 4, 2008
This year's theme will explore a number of variations on how we can change the lives of children through the strength of many voices. Possibilities include claiming a more significant presence in the complementary learning community, partnering with community organizations to share the message of camp, increasing public awareness about the benefits of camp, strengthening the teams within our camps, helping our counselors and campers find their voices and be included in decision-making at camp, effectively working with our boards, strengthening our legislative voice, and drawing from our shared strength to provide greater opportunities for children to experience camp.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Saturday, February 2, 2008
I wrote recently about my feeling that snowshoes are tools to be used when necessary, and how the outdoor industry has moved beyond that.
Now there's snowshoe racing.
The first racing snowshoes — a far cry from the six-foot-long wood and rawhide relics that hang over so many log cabin fireplaces — were developed in Leadville, Colo., in 1988 by Bill Perkins, a triathlete looking for a way to train in the off season. His snowshoes, manufactured under the name Redfeather, featured a V design and an aluminum frame. Twenty years later, most every major manufacturer makes racing snowshoes, which are typically less than two-feet long and cost from $250 to $350. Each maker touts its own advantageous feat of engineering.Now all we need is some snow...