Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nature & Child Reunion Part 3

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Nature & Child Reunion Part 3
Reconnecting Children With the Natural World
Written by Jodi Hiland of Happy Trails Family Nature Club

The Nature and Child Reunion

While the issue of kids not spending as much time in nature seems like a huge one, the exciting news is that there is a strong Children and Nature Movement building, around the world.  Countries everywhere are experiencing the same issues, and they are collaborating in different ways to create a new reality.

Since there are many barriers to children's outdoor play, the answers will have to be met where those barriers originate.  It will take efforts at all levels of society to make change.  For example, a housing developer in Woodbury, MN purposely included natural spaces for children in his development.  However, children still aren't using these areas.  What will it take for those children to go out?  Possibly a change in the family, such as loosening family schedules, parents working through some of their fears/dislikes abut the outdoors, etc. Or perhaps policy change at the governmental level will bring more balance to the homework situation.  It's probably many things.

Many organizations exist that already are in the business of children and nature, and they need more support.  These include Scouting groups, 4-H clubs, nature centers, state parks, etc.  I didn't realize how little time Scouting groups actually spend in nature these days, including camping!

We need to make our views known to city planners and developers about how we want our natural spaces to look, and how to redevelop other areas.

Homeowners and renters can push for looser restrictions on covenants that prohibit natural play.

We can ask parks commissions to naturalize current and new parks.

Our society needs protection against rediculous lawsuits.

There are many types of organizations who are in a position to educate, and call for change.  Faith-based groups, non-profit organizations, corporations and more, can all make a big difference.

Since school is where the majority of kids spend their whole day, reforms need to happen there.  We can support educators who are already trying to work within the system to bring nature to children.  Schoolyards need to include green space, and natural play areas.  We can support our local nature-based schools, like Dodge Nature Preschool and Garlough Elementary in West St. Paul, the preschool at Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake, and the Michael Frome Academy in Woodbury.

The study of Natural History is vanishing from college course offerings.  These need to be re-established soon, as the nature experts we have benefitted from across the country are retiring.

Health care providers of all types are an important influence in how much nature time kids experience.  This can actually be prescribed to complement, or even replace, other types of therapies or medications.

Let us honor and learn from the indiginous cultures with whom we are fortunate to share the Earth.  May we restore what is theirs, and not remove any more.

I believe the best thing we can all do right now is to... go outside!  I know I feel nature's restorative quality the minute I get "out there".  Let's work together as a culture, within our own families, and in our own hearts, to "go back to the land".

May the future lives of our world's kids be always full of "loose parts" with which to play!

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