Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's In A Name? The Evolution of a Movement

What makes a trend? Where is “the tipping point" when the obscure becomes the mainstream? How do we collectively determine what is important to us as a global culture? And when are we called to action? The “green” movement has undergone a transformation from years of “grass roots” and individual efforts, to a widely discussed topic throughout all media sources and one that people are acting on in a broad way.

As we move ever closer to the beginning of the summer camp season, I am seeing a refreshing trend in conversations across the web. News outlets, bloggers, parents, summer camp staff and other professionals in the outdoor industry are talking about the importance of nature in the lives of our kids. By consolidating our voices, our message, our vision, and (maybe?) our name we can achieve a simple and very important goal: to get our children reconnected with the natural world.

The Children In Nature Network, Richard Louv, the ACA, and the National Wildlife Federation are some of the larger organizations and better known individuals providing momentum to the children in nature movement. Yet, in the current environment of lightning-fast information exchange through blogs and on social media platforms, the conversation is just as loud—if not louder. I wanted to share some of the lesser known groups and individuals I have found who are also doing their part to spread the word about the importance of authentic, nature experiences for our kids.

The blog at PlayOutdoors.com has an outstanding post regarding the “outdoor play movement” which details specific ideas to make getting outside with kids a habit, not a rarity. Another name for the movement is “free-range kids”—where parents are giving up their hovering, helicopter ways for an experience-based approach to childhood (imagine that!) which encourages problem-solving, independence, outdoor play and personal resilience. The Free-Range Kids blog and book by Lenore Skenazy hopes to “give our kids the freedom we had without going nuts with worry.” The Nature for Kids blog provides articles and resources for parents interested in becoming a part of a community of parents who detail just HOW they manage to get their families outside regularly. The Grass Stain Guru celebrates the messes, dirt, and experimentations of childhood, while Play Everything is an offshoot of the need for unstructured free play in the outdoors. There are even blogs—such as The Outdoor Parent —designed to celebrate the importance of the outdoors in the lives of children AND their parents. The Green Hour, from NWF, is yet another direction (another name) the movement has taken—just an hour a day of “outside time” will make a difference in the lives of your children. Urban parents who don’t have the opportunity to take hikes in the backcountry will really appreciate the tips and ideas for enjoying and appreciating nature in the city (podcasts are even available to download and listen to on your morning commute!)

Children In Nature. No Child Left Inside. Nature For Kids. The Green Hour. Free Range Kids. Outdoor Play Movement. Playwork. Free Play. The movement is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, and based on these blogs, global. As long as the dialogue continues, then we will all learn to speak a common language—and one that will benefit the planet, relationships, our children, and the overall health and humanity of our global society.

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