Sunday, November 29, 2009

Places of Woe

The Free Play Network have created an online exhibition of play spaces, categorising them into places of woe and possibility. It's depressing to see the places of woe, as you would expect.... but for me more because we all know places that look like that, rather than for the obvious reasons.

The places of possibility have one common theme.... nature.

Back on my soap box again....... it's a fine place to be. Good views and a little wind in my face.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm no Wilberforce or Huxley

Debating isn't my strong point and yet when I feel strongly about something I wish I had the debating skills to equal the passion..... but I always fall short.

I tried to talk to someone recently about this study being done in the UK, the EarlyBird Diabetes Trust, (it has been mentioned in an article I posted about last month), about the findings that food and not activity seem to be more of a factor in the current obesity/diabetes epidemic. But my powers of persuasion, my oratorial skills, my you-should-believe-everything-I-say-because-I-am-right argument didn't wash. They were unimpressed......

What I needed to say was this, follow this link to the physical activity section.

I don't know if that would have worked but at least I wouldn't have ended the discussion with a pathetic aside of "Well, I have a blog about the subject and feel very strongly about it....". A comment I am being teased mercilessly about in the cold light of day.

So, it's time to brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now.... and hopefully a little literary pomposity will win people over. Failing that, I'll just do what the Queen Mum would do and say "We shall have fog by teatime." (Yay, Victoria Wood)

Monday, November 23, 2009

California here I come

Actually, I'm already here but had not heard about this campaign. Either I'm not getting out enough with my kids to have heard about it or they are just not promoting the Children in Nature Campaign as they should.

Irregardless of that, it is great to see California State Parks realizing they need to reach out to the next generation of park goers......

Check out the website, there are some nice ideas for getting kids outdoors, even in your neighborhood.


The Edge is an independent foundation promoting practical and vocational learning in the UK. Along the lines of Ken Robinson's criticisms of the education system only catering to academically minded children who want to be University Professors, (see earlier post about his speech on TED), the Edge hope to give all young people the opportunities to achieve their potential by running campaigns and projects to challenge academic snobbery and stimulate a demand for practical learning.

"We Are The People We've Been Waiting For" is a great interactive website of theirs. Luckily when I was a teenager I knew what I wanted to do and nothing would stop me from following that path, but for all those kids out there that don't fit into the cookie cutter mold, this is light at the end of a very dark and hormonally off balance tunnel will be truly welcome........

Yay, dirt is a good thing.....

It's great to see some research into proving dirt is good for kids. The BBC have an article about research from the School of Medicine at University of California, San Diego. Apparently, "normal bacteria living on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when we get hurt. The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses that can cause cuts and grazes to swell." Well, I for one think it's great.....

I won't be telling my boys any time soon but I certainly won't be giving them a hard time about getting dirty any more.....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sense of Wonder

I finally tracked down a copy of Rachel Carson's book, "The Sense of Wonder" through my local library. It was a copy from 1966, older than me and had some great photos to accompany the text. I read it in 15 minutes, or devoured it I should say. Here is a passage I loved:

"A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength."

By the way, there is also a film out about Rachel Carson, called "A Sense of Wonder".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kids are the best promoters

I love this movie by the WWF, encouraging America to get involved in the climate change issue at the UN summit in Copenhagen.

Such a powerful message...... please send an email to President Obama after you've viewed it (let your voice be heard, link).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Can't get enough of this man

Just finished "The Element" and now this...... a speech by Sir Ken Robinson at the Los Angeles Library this year...... It's like Christmas.

What a great quote.

…children are disappearing from the outdoors at a rate that would make the top of any conservationist’s list of endangered species if they were any other member of the animal kingdom…” Gill (2005)

Found on page 20 here.

Adventure Playgrounds of yesterday, today and hopefully tomorrow

This topic was the starting point for my thesis and it taught me many things:
1. Not to over design spaces
2. Create spaces for kids and not tiny versions of adult spaces
3. Kids getting dirty while reenacting "The Lord of The Flies" is quite natural, however scary it looks to an adult......

During my research I came across this quote I have never forgotten, by Lady Allen of Hurtwood (above);

"Better a broken bone than a broken spirit".

You'd get sued today for just thinking that......

I am happy to report that even though the original adventure playground that started it all, at Emdrup in Denmark, has long gone, they are still thriving. Here's a short movie on the Play England website called "Adventure Playground Voices". Great.

A local blog for local people

Ok, anyone not a fan of "The League of Gentleman" won't get the heading, but now's your chance to find out....

The Garden School Foundation, based in Los Angeles, as I am, has a great blog. It's inspiring to see how the school ground that they transformed from asphalt to a garden has had such an impact on the lives of the children at the 24th Street School.

I am going to add it to my links and hope you check it out as well.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm not a camper.

Frequently I put the words children and nature in Google to search for new articles and interesting happenings I can post about and find a plethora of amazing non-profit organization/blogs/networks/collaborations/forums/you name it, with an emphasis on camping, hiking, backpacking and general getting-out-into-nature inspired activities.

Now, it pains me to admit that none of the above are my cup of tea. Connecting with nature, yes, but driving to a remote patch of wilderness to really feel that I am one with mother nature, no.

For me connecting with nature isn't all about camping and roughing it in the wilderness. It is and should be about having nature accessible, outside your own back door, a 5 minute walk to a local wood, a park within a quarter mile of your residence, a street with wide sidewalks and shade trees. Within those spaces children and adults can still feel connected to and experience nature without feeling like they have to pack all but the kitchen sink just to be in a natural setting....

So, I hope my confession rings true with many of you out there, people who love and appreciate nature but don't feel the urge to leave behind the comforts of home to enjoy them. With good planning and design we should all be able to have the choice. Mosquitos or Mojitos........

Rachel Carson

While doing my weekly research I came across Rachel Carson. I started to read about her and the books she had written and was quite appalled with myself that I had never heard of her.

I am making it my mission this week to read "The Sense of Wonder", her final book. As her website states, it was "originally written as a 1950's magazine article called "Help Your Child to Wonder" and photo-illustrated after her death, details Carson's philosophy that adults need to nurture a child's inborn sense of wonder about the natural world."

Maybe I can be forgiven as she was American and I didn't study American history in my English school. Plus this book has been out of print until 1998........ Ok, I'll cut myself some slack.