NWF Green Hour
Commentary on what parents should know about and can do to counteract common "nature deficit disorders" in our TV-watching, video game-playing children including encouraging a daily "Green Hour" of outside play and learning. A program of the National Wildlife Federation
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
That awkward "but what would I do outside"? moment!
Priming the pump for outdoor activity
What parent hasn't heard the classic, "I'm bored -- there isn't anything to do," lament? When a child registers such a complaint is usually causes every productive idea about fun things to do to drain from an adult's brain. This condition can be aggravated when you suggest that a child STEP AWAY FROM THE TELEVISION and go out and play. "And do what"!? -- comes the rejoinder and the brain-drain begins in earnest. Author, Richard Louv, (Last Child in the Woods) discusses how awkward an adult can feel when suggesting that kids play outside. He reminds us, however, that once the kids get out there they pretty much take entertain themselves. You just need to get them started.
Brain stilled drained? Here is some help. Consider, for example, the resources at Family Corner.com which has a useful and accessible set of articles on things to do outdoors with kids.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Parents: How Safe Is It Out There?
The real dangers may be inside.
Richard Louv, author of the highly-regarded book Last Child in the Woods, had a provocative commentary in the New York Times on Sunday, September 25th. He noted how often adults say they keep kids inside because it is no longer safe outdoors. But is that true? Richard runs through a number of findings on how comparitively safer the outdoors are today than in the 1970s and 1980s. Noteworthy among these are that violence toward children is down by one third and child abductions are down roughly 50% since 1988. The importance of this information for someone recommending that every child needs an average of a outdoor 'green' hour per day is evident. It seems children outside today are safer than we might think. But, it is also worth noting the the common alaternative -- television -- has been proven to make children angry and violent. And, on the Internet lurk many thousands of child predators. It has so many, in fact, that some anaysts say 20% of kids will communcate directly with a predator on line at some point. Richard's advice on all of this -- tell your kids to "take a hike."
Monday, September 26, 2005
Green Hours Need Greener Communities
The Centers for Disease Control totally "get it" when it comes to the need for outdoor time and outdoor spaces. The CDC's main reason for supporting more time outdoors is to encourage exercise and combat a natiowide epidemic of obesity. In its summary of how to overcome common barriers to exercise, the Agency starts with community environment -- places to walk, bike, run and play. Through its Active Community Environments Initiative (ACES) the CDC encourages communities and and their people to work harder to offer safe, clean and convenient outdoor opportunities. The NWF Green Hour program shares this goal with the CDC. We recognize how much healthier our children are when they get away from the TV and out into nature. We also recognize how much healthier the American conservation movement will be with a generation of young people who have stayed connected instead of glued to the television.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Green Literacy and Green Hours
Kids need to turn off the TV and read
American children now spend more time watching TV than any other waking activity. They actually spend more time watching TV than they spend in school. And, studies that have involved more than 400,000 students have confirmed that TV hurts a child's academic performance. One thing that especially gets lost is outdoor time, but another is reading. At the National Wildlife Federation we see these two things as connected. We hope children will have one Green Hour outdoors per day and we also hope they will read more about nature -- much more. NWF has a longstanding commitment to children reading. The Non-profit organization the TV Turnoff Network agrees with us and has compiled a compelling fact sheet on literacy.
We have been doing our own research and have found the our children's maagazines Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard and Wild Animal Baby are excellent tools for literacy and are endorsed by many of the leading literacy organizations. Our ideal -- kids read about nature and then spend time outdoors experiencing it directly -- away from the TV.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
When nothing else works
How about a green month?
Watch a pair of kids spending hours playing fast-moving, often violent, video action games and it makes one long to spoon feed them them some of the healing properties of nature and the outdoors. But how important is this?
We can learn much about this urge from a well-developed healing practice known professsionally as Adventure Therapy. It sounds fun, but it is serious business. It is the practice of immersing our most troubled teens and adults -- those with dysfunction, severe emotional problems, histories of violence or substance abuse -- in natural or 'green' settings. Many of these programs take a full month or more and involve venturing into true wilderness areas. Some of the healing comes from the teamwork and problem-solving skills these settings "naturally" provide. But, every expert in this field will tell you that it is time in nature itself that does much of the healing. Most important to remember -- when other therapies have failed, the outdoors work!
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
One man’s Green Hour
Scolia Dubia Meets Beetle Mania
Being outside offers many experiences. Here is what NWF Chief Naturalist Craig Tufts has to say about the Digger Wasp and its relationship to garden-eating beetles at his home. KC
“Just about everyone who gardens in our area has complained about the numbers of Japanese beetles this summer. I have also been plagued by "green June beetles.” Both ate most of our raspberries and damaged our peaches. Not only do both adult beetles chew up an incredible variety of plants, from roses to grapes to Virginia creeper and many fruiting trees and shrubs, their grubs spend all fall until frost and then again next spring before early July chewing up the roots of our lawn grasses, ornamentals and shrubs.
But look a little closer in local meadows full of goldenrod, the white "eupatorium" and many tall grasses. You are likely to see a striking pollinator among the blooms. It's red; it's yellow, it's black; it's blue. It's a wasp! Sometimes called a Digger Wasp but not having a widely accepted common name, Scolia Dubia, is busily picking up pollen and nectar and (for us gardeners) it is also parasitizing recently hatched, subterranean green June beetle larvae. Some of this wasp’s' less showy relatives are doing the same to Japanese beetle larva. Come next summer, the beetles will be out again but knowing and accepting these wasps as allies in our habitats and keeping the pesticides out of our landscapes will ensure that their young will do the job and reduce these pest beetle populations.”
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Girls Need Green Hours -- Non TV-watching Kids Harder to Find -- NZ Study Released
Get Your Kids Outside and Active!
Watching television may be OK in small amounts, but another study has just come out of New Zealand's University of Otago pointing out the relationship between too much TV watching and long-term obesity. A couple of particularly interesting findings in this article, published in the International Journal of Obesity, are: a) how girls are more inclined to be affected than boys, b) how staying indoors cuts down on calorie burning activity, and c) how hard it was to find children in the sample of 1,000 who watched an hour or less per day. Read More! Photo: BBC News
Discovery Zone Backyard Style
Try a Green Hour of Exploration
Author Brenda Hyde is a mom to three, a freelance writer and editor. She recently wrote an engaging article for Family Corner Magazine called "Backyard Discovery Zone." Using discovery zones in zoos and museums as inspiration, she suggests arranging a series of discoveries in different parts of the backyard. It heightens a child's observation skills, creativity and appreciation for nature. Read More!
Photo from FamilyCorner.com
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Pre-schools need to offer more active/outdoor time: study finds
Outdoor time is a key to healthier children 3 to 5 years old.
USA Today, November 2004
"Low activity level could be contributing to the increasing problem of excess weight in kids, says researcher Russ Pate, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina-Columbia. About 10% of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight; another 12% are at risk of becoming so, the latest government statistics show. More than half of 3- to 5-year-olds go to preschool. Children need more vigorous play during unstructured free time at preschool"
In the study, Pate and colleagues examined activity levels of 281 kids at nine preschools in Columbia, S.C., including church-based, private programs and Head Start.
The children wore accelerometers, a small activity monitor, for about 4 hours a day. Researchers also watched their activities. Among findings published in November's Pediatrics:
The kids did an average of 7.7 minutes an hour of moderate to vigorous activity at preschool. Often it was done in blocks of time when the children were outside." Read More