According to Louv and the interdisciplinary field of ecopsychology, being outside has a track record of improving a person’s physical and mental ailments. According to this month’s issue of Fitness Magazine, the supplement provided by the outdoors that allows for improvements in health is the vitamin D gained from simply being in the sunlight. The article, “Super Vitamin to the Rescue,” by Richard Laliberte, reveals that “… 5 to 30 minutes of unprotected exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at least twice a week will give you most of the D you need.”
And if you need more provocation to get out, Popular Mechanics has an amazing article on how vitamin D can help treat osteoporosis. So, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but going out into the sun today will help you get out of bed tomorrow morning.
The Great American Backyard Campout: June 27, 2009
The National Wildlife Federation deserves some major kudos here. I’ve thought about letting my kids camp in our backyard many times, but I quickly came to the realization that it’d be almost cruel considering the mosquito population here in Houston. This campout idea involves you, and as many neighbors as you can recruit, camping in your backyard.
It’s not just a “Hey, go camping in your backyard” thing, though. Everyone that signs up across the nation will be participating on the same night. Sign up and either find a host campsite in your neighborhood or host a group in your area yourself. The National Wildlife Federation has provoked people all over to participate in this event in June in order to gain a larger feeling of solidarity in the sense that we need a little more nature in our lives.
Leave No Child Inside, another Louv-inspired organization, offers a great ideas & how-to on raising monarch butterflies. At first, I was thinking, “Yeah, okay… this is impossible,” but it’s actually very simple. The caterpillar does all the work, but it’s an amazing natural occurrence that you can witness with – and explain to – your children.
Just Open the Door
Take a walk and collect leaves and flowers. When you get home (no rush, really) get out a nature guide or encyclopedia and try to identify the plants or trees from which you pulled your samples.
No awesome nature book? Google it. However, if you go the Google route, try to be as specific as possible regarding your region and what kind of plant you’re trying to identify. Otherwise, you’ll end up searching for “tree” or something just as generic and not-at-all helpful. If you want to go a few steps further, get an empty hard bound book or a composition notebook and use it as a field guide.
Take your camera, take notes, take your kids and take your time. You can even start a field guide blog if you prefer to keep your photos digital. Once you and your kids are familiar with the nature around, try a family scavenger hunt. Pick a list of items you know you have identified (maybe with a small picture) and see which team can return home with the correct collection.
Turn off the TV. Turn off the lights. Look up.
A clear night is the perfect chance to get your kids out. Our telescope is a member of the family, but the light pollution here in Houston is overwhelming. It causes quite the glare, but the kids thoroughly enjoy looking at the craters of the moon.
Star charts are a great tool whether or not you have a telescope.
Even on a rainy day, you can explore nature. We recently got a microscope for the kids, and its possibilities are endless. You can collect pretty much any small item (hair, seed, fingernail, leaf, etc.) and reveal the intricacies of even the smallest element of the outdoor world around them.
That rainy day also provides an opportunity for you to research the elements in the atmosphere causing the rain. That way, when they get back outside, they’ll be able to look up and distinguish clouds, wind direction and how likely precipitation will be for the day.
I’m in love with meteorology, and I don’t think I could ever learn enough.
Get your kids curious. Make them ask questions; that’s a telltale sign of their gears turning. As long as they’re turning, it’s hard for them to get rusty. Think of your encouragement and involvement as WD-40 for their inquisitiveness.
“Never lay across the tracks of your kids’ train of thought.” -my dad
If you know of any other fantastic events like the Great American Backyard Campout, please share them! Please sign up: it would be quite the joy to be able to discuss our experiences together after the event in June.