Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's starting off well.....

I know, I cheated a little (7 hours too early) but I do feel that 2010 is really going to gain momentum with regards to children and nature. Here's an exciting project, for starters...

Camilla Rockwell is currently working on a new documentary called "Mother Nature's Child". It explores how time spent in nature influences child health and development. Powerful stuff, check out the trailer.

It's Getting Hot In Here

This is a blog by our next generation of leaders, "a collection of voices from the student and youth leaders of the global movement to stop global warming". Love it.

Happy New Year

Here's hoping 2010 will be a good year for us all, but especially to children, nature and our sense of play.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Better late than never.

In leu of the Copenhagen Climate Conferences, although a little after the's a website called Children in a changing climate, about "securing children and young people a voice in preventing and adapting to climate change - from their communities to the UN".

Check out the latest news side bar with exciting articles about what went on at the conference, my favourite heading being "Children set homework for adults at COP15 climate conference". Nice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another gap in my education

Thomas Berry..... I'd never heard of him until today. I know, some days I feel like I've been living in a cave. It's hard to summarize his career in one sentence, particularly since I am just learning about him myself.

I just read this essay he wrote in December 1993, called The Meadow Across the Creek.

My favourite part:

"We have indeed become strange beings so completely are we at odds with the planet that brought us into being. We dedicate enormous talent and knowledge and research to developing a human order disengaged from and even predatory on the very sources whence we came and upon which we depend at every moment of our existence. We initiate our children into an economic order based on exploitation of the natural life systems of the planet. To achieve this perspective we must first make them autistic in their relation with the natural world about them. This disconnection occurs quite simply since we ourselves have become insensitive toward the natural world and do not realize just what we are doing. Yet, if we observe our children closely in their early years and see how they are instinctively attracted to the experiences of the natural world about them, we will see how disorientated they become in the mechanistic and even toxic environment that we provide for them."

About time too.

The headline reads Congress Considers Federal Funding for City Parks. The article, posted on the Children and Nature website, says legislation has been introduced in Congress that would provide federal funding for urban parks and recreation for the first time in eight years....

EIGHT YEARS..... bleak time or we could even call them Dark Ages (definition from wikipedia: The Dark Ages is a term referring to the perceived period of cultural decline or societal collpase). Without places where, as the article states "children can play outdoors, get involved in sports and experience nature", these are and have been dark times indeed.

So, let's see some change.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Child Friendly Cities

I actually practiced what I preached (for a change... ha), by checking out the IPA website, as I had suggested on my previous post and found this link to the website, Child Friendly Cities, a part of Unicef.

What is a child friendly city? I asked the same question......

In a nutshell, or the full version to be found here....

- It is a city, or more generally a system of local governance, committed to fulfilling children's rights, including their right to:
  • Influence decisions about their city
  • Express their opinion on the city they want
  • Participate in family, community and social life
  • Receive basic services such as health care and education
  • Drink safe water and have access to proper sanitation
  • Be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse
  • Walk safely in the streets on their own
  • Meet friends and play
  • Have green spaces for plants and animals
  • Live in an unpolluted environment
  • Participate in cultural and social events
  • Be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or disability
I read this and thought how lucky my kids are just to be in a city/country where much of this is taken for granted. It's hard to imagine it otherwise. But, as necessity is the mother of invention, this organization wouldn't exist but for a need...... Sad.


It would be a sad day for us all if the International Play Association couldn't come up with interesting speakers talking about play, but it isn't..... a sad day, I mean. And let's face it, any organization that's main concern is to promote children's right to play has got my vote.

Professor Jaap Doek talked about important aspects of play in a keynote address, titled "Children and the Right to Play", at the IPA conference in Hong Kong in 2008.

" was then and still is today a free activity; if the activity is enforced it is not “play” anymore. Play is also an activity different from the common or real life. It is an activity with its own purpose."

But don't let me spoil it by paraphrasing.... read it yourself. Why not check out the rest of their website while you're there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Engineers rejoice!

I know this may seem slightly off topic but this article about engineering, called A degree of passion is what's needed most, written by Prince Phillip, shows again how our school systems are failing our children.

"Many of our pioneering engineers started without any formal training but had a passion, and a talent, for invention and development. The system does not seem to be able to cope with the “hands-on” enthusiast, who has no immediate interest in academic qualifications. The challenge is to entice them on to the ladder of professional advancement."

Where there should be opportunities for creativity and innovation, we have created a prescribed and rigid learning structure. Nice to see even the English Royal Family have joined the band wagon....

Time to plant a tree

I know this may seem like a simplistic answer to climate change, but trees can solve so many problems...... Watch this, Earth's Climate History and then know this:

A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings. (From here.)

M Paul Friedberg

The Cultural Landscape Foundation have created these online oral histories on Landscape Architects of note and the latest one completed is about M. Paul Friedberg. I studied his work while researching for my thesis on children and nature. Here is a great article on the Dwell website about him and architect Richard Dattner, among others, and the work they did on playgrounds in the 60's and 70's.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Friedberg and Dattner were interested in the connections between imaginative play, exploration, and cognitive development as explored by psychologists such as Jean Piaget, R. D. Laing, and Erik Erikson. “An environment that provides only the familiar challenges that already have been overcome countless times, will never call forth any new learning,” observed Dattner in his 1969 book Design for Play. After observing how children choreograph their own entertainment in construction sites and on city streets—running, jumping, swinging, and vaulting from hydrant to fire escape to stairwell—both men championed “linked” or “continuous” play rather than offering one static experience per element. “The choice of what to do next becomes an experience. The more complex the playground, the greater the choice and the more enriched the learning experience,” explained Friedberg in his 1970 book Play and Interplay."

Funny to think that they thought like that 40+ years ago and it seems so innovative reading it today..... why haven't we built upon that knowledge and moved on? Are our playgrounds and parks creative and enriching places? Not from where I'm standing......

Check out his interview about facilitating opportunity and facilitating play. Follow the link, launch the oral history module, then click on the design tab and scroll down.