Pass It On

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you…
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

~ John Muir

fog hike at cataract trail

If you follow me on Twitter, you know they call me the #playoutdoors lady. It’s a title I wear proudly. Well, I just spent a few days with my people. My tribe. People across North America working to help connect children and nature. The thing I really love about the Children and Nature Network is the spirit of collaboration and lack of need to own the movement, which is, as it should be.

We should all be working together to get kids and adults alike outside. Whether you care about conservation, education, public health, recreation, developmental psychology, environmental justice, the creativity of the future workforce, or…

You see, it does not matter what angle you are interested in or what professional hat you wear. It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, or if you are out there on your own, beating the drum and reminding people that there is a beautiful world out there that they need to remember to be a part of.  It doesn’t matter where you are from or whether you are a parent or not. None of it matters.

Today, tomorrow, and always there will be great personal and societal benefit for spending time outdoors. For getting to know the world around you and your place in it. For sharing those lessons, breath-taking vistas, and moments of wonder that can only be found when we take the time to slow down and head outside, allowing the most basic parts of ourselves to be restored.

Someone recently asked me why I do what I do. It’s simple, really. I do this because I firmly believe that life is meant for living. That happiness is found in simple moments of beauty, in connecting with ourselves and nature, and not only in being stewards of the Earth, but in stewards of our humanity. It troubles me to see so much lost in the never ending quest for more, so I write, and speak, and connect with others who want the same thing — even if it is for different reasons from my own.

So, I invite you to join me and my tribe — to join all the people across the globe that are doing their part to make a difference on personal or professional levels. In backyards and schoolyards. In parks, big and small. In nature centers, community gardens, and arboretums.

Join us. Get outside and play. Pass it on. Together our voices are strong.

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: eunmind

The Complex Issue of Children and Nature

Shoes. Again.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gdpaule

TGSG Note: Sometimes, posts are worth another visit. I think this is one of them. I hope you do too.

When people ask me what I write about — what I do — I often get strange looks. It appears that dedicating oneself to unstructured play and connecting children (and adults) with nature can be perceived as a frivolous thing. I get that. I mean, it is play, after all. People tend to associate play and exploration with fun. In turn, they associate fun with anything but serious.

But here’s the thing: This subject is anything but frivolous. In fact, I propose it is quite serious.

If you think about it, if you take the issue of today’s childhood — the well-documented and increasing gap between children and nature — and look at it in its entirety, it’s really quite an enormous issue. A societal issue requiring a societal response.

Here are just a few lenses we can use to look at the issue. Each of these is a post or series of posts in their own right, so these are simple “thought bubbles” for the moment. Consider:

Public Health: Childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing, as is the medication of children for ADHD. Childhood and adolescent depression are also on the rise. Consider how spending time in nature, being active outdoors, playing, and having fun might impact these health problems and be part of a wellness and disease prevention paradigm.

Education (and reform): Mandatory recess. Establishing reasonable and thoughtful homework policies that impact not only the lives of students, but of educators, parents, and families. Protecting play-based learning in Kindergarten. On and on. We cannot expect kids to get outside and play if we do not provide opportunities for them to do so, or value those opportunities in the learning readiness of all students. Additionally, environmental education is a vital, viable win-win educational opportunity to enrich the school environment. Its hands-on, real-world approach is a powerful tool for engaging all learning styles.

Urban Planning: Planning community green-spaces, nature trails and community-connecting bike and walking paths. Creating safe walking routes to school. Sidewalks in neighborhoods. Traffic patterns. You name it — urban planners have a great power to create and refit healthy communities that foster time outdoors.

Social Justice: How are poor areas impacted in greater ways? Is it safe to go outside some places? What can be done about that?  In areas heavily populated by recent immigrants with a different, and often more deep connection to the land, how are we engaging them in programs and efforts? What could we do better? What do they need?

Conservation: Without a connection to nature, what will the next generation do? One cannot protect what they do not know. Who will take the jobs of the people retiring  in the conservation field, if kids grow up with no interest or connection? Who will vote to protect land, species, etc.? Who will become members and donors of NGOs that work on conservation issues?

Quality of Life: This one is key. Time outdoors. Unplugged time. Time to make connections to the land, ourselves, our families, and our communities in more meaningful ways. Time to recharge our batteries. Time to simply be. Time for children to play, which is how they restore.

This time — this magic time of unplugging and connecting — is a powerful way to be a happier, healthier person. Doing so can help you be a better parent or mentor, a better employee or employer. A better you. How can society not be served by better versions of us all, young and old alike?

Steeped in awe and wonder, time spent playing and exploring the outdoors is indeed, quite fun. It is also a very important issue, and quite serious. It requires all of us to work together — professionals from a variety of disciplines, parents and grandparents, educators and caregivers, and concerned citizens.

I hope you will join me. We have lots of work to do. But luckily, much of this worthy work is, as it turns out, PLAY!

See you outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Mystery Critter #62

yin and yang on a park bench and nobody's looking!

Howdy, nature detectives! The Mystery Critter has been hiding out, but it wanted me to tell @OCPlayParks‘ kiddos hello and good luck guessing!

OK, time to play Mystery Critter.  Put on your thinking caps and let’s get to it! And remember — no cheating. ;-)

CRITTER CLUES:

  • I am the largest of my species
  • I look a bit prehistoric
  • The male of the species never leaves the water
  • I have a very unique tongue that acts like a lure
  • I have a long lifespan

So, what am I?

Make your guess then go to eNature for the answer and more interesting facts.

Did you get it right?

If not, no worries. You will have another chance soon!

Remember, when looking for wildlife, keep your eyes and ears open! What critters can you spot in your neck of the woods? Be sure to tell us!

And don’t forget! Join the Wildobs community and share your wild adventures with the world.

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

Creative Commons License photo credit: downing.amanda

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