I just discovered this little gem on You Tube: Get Em Outside:
It's been uploaded by the Leave No Child Inside Coalition which is a united group of private, public and non-profit organisations whose aim is to get the Leave No Child Inside Act passed through Federal Legislation. The aim is to ensure that learning in and about nature becomes embedded in formal and informal education processes throughout the USA.
Interestingly, there is a strong emphasis on the needs and rights of children of all ages to unstructured outdoor play. This aspect of outdoor learning seems to have been largely forgotten by A Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom (England & Wales) and the Scottish Taking Learning Outdoors report.
Back in April I had the privilege of being in Chicago as part of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. One of my prime reasons for being there was to find out a little more about Chicago Wilderness I stumbled across this umbrella organisation whilst surfing the net six months earlier. To quote its own literature, “It is an unprecedented regional partnership among more than 200 public and private organisations devoted to protecting and restoring our precious natural ecosystems for the benefit of the public.”
By coming together and acting as one voice, much joined up work has happened within the Chicago area for the benefit of people and the natural spaces. Everyone knows what’s happening in other organisations in the area and who’s who. There is also a full time education officer whose remit is to support and encourage Leave No Child Inside events, training and activities.
A lovely example of this is the Roger Raccoon Club which teaches children how to mess around outside. The days at this club are spent being taught how to fish, climb trees, track animals and keep safe outside. Once the basic skills have been mastered the children are free to explore a woodland park area. Adults are nearby and there are regular rendezvous throughout the day.
All this is food for thought for anyone who works with children or who have children themselves. In particular, schools need to consider the need for:
- Maintaining access to outdoor breaks and playtimes
- The use of school grounds by children outwith school hours
A good book to read is Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods (2nd Ed. 2008). This book provides thought provoking arguments for increased contact with the natural world and unstructured free play outdoors for children of all ages. As for me...I'm away outside to play with my dog. Bye!