Archive for Monday, March 30, 2009

Grassroots group aims to reunite children, nature

Quail Run School second-graders Ashley Coup, left, and Caitlynn Grammer show off the large worm they found under a log during an outing in the woods Friday with their class. It is the goal of the Nature Education for Kids Task Force to provide children with more opportunities to enjoy and learn from being in natural settings.

Quail Run School second-graders Ashley Coup, left, and Caitlynn Grammer show off the large worm they found under a log during an outing in the woods Friday with their class. It is the goal of the Nature Education for Kids Task Force to provide children with more opportunities to enjoy and learn from being in natural settings.

March 30, 2009

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Outside For a Better Inside

Quail Run Elementary School second-graders Ashley Coup, left, Caitlynn Grammer and Carsten Tabak show off a large worm, a small branch of blossoms and an insect carcass they found during an outing in the woods with their class.

Quail Run Elementary School second-graders Ashley Coup, left, Caitlynn Grammer and Carsten Tabak show off a large worm, a small branch of blossoms and an insect carcass they found during an outing in the woods with their class.

Past Event
The Ecology of Hope: Building a Movement to Reconnect Children and Nature

  • When: Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, Lawrence
  • More on this event....
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Support the cause

There is a Nature Education for Kids fund established with the Douglas County Community Foundation. The fund will support the newly formed Nature Education for Kids task force. It supports environmental programs for Lawrence’s children and initiatives to get them outside.

To make a donation, call the foundation at 843-8727 or click on dccfoundation.org.

For more information about the task force, e-mail outsideforabetterinside@gmail.com.

Being outside leads to a better inside — physically and emotionally. That’s why no child should be left inside.

That’s what longtime Lawrence real estate developer John McGrew believes.

And those beliefs were reaffirmed when he read Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” — a book that has spawned a national movement to reconnect children to the great outdoors.

“I think the greatest gift my parents gave to me, outside of life itself, was a sincere appreciation of nature and the outdoors,” McGrew said. “I would take my dog and my fishing pole and go up along the Kansas River and I just felt a real connection with life — I was grounded, I guess.”

Today, the 70-year-old grandfather cringes when he sees children engrossed in texting on cell phones, playing video games or tapping away on computers.

“My mom would say, ‘Go outside and play before dinner,’ and I would go out and try to build a treehouse or something,” McGrew said. “Today, they just sit down and play with their iPod or whatever.”

He recalls vacations in pristine national parks where elk would be meandering by a stream, and then hearing children complain about being bored. The children wanted to get back in the Suburban and watch videos.

“It truly is a concern to me,” he said.

Lawrence movement

So, McGrew helped form a task force of people who share his concerns. They include educators, parents, recreation leaders and Kansas University professors. The Nature Education for Kids task force has been meeting since September.

Among its goals:

• Build a butterfly garden at elementary schools that don’t have one.

• Help sponsor contests and programs to raise awareness about the importance of science programs.

• Cooperate with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department on the new Oregon Trail Park area. It’s north of Sixth Street between the South Lawrence Trafficway and Wakarusa Drive.

• Cooperate with Lawrence public schools to support a full-time nature educator.

The ultimate goal is to help build a community wellness campus in Lawrence in cooperation with the city and school district. McGrew envisions a lake with a walking trail, signs that identify the flora and fauna, and a “miracle field” for handicapped children.

“We would let the imagination of the community decide exactly what the wellness campus would be, but we still have to have the land and a plan,” he said.

McGrew said organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence do a good job of getting children outside, but they are only able to reach a small percentage of Lawrence’s children. That’s why the group is working closely with the school district.

Bruce Passman, deputy school superintendent, is a task force member. He said environmental education has been a priority for the district for years. That’s because research has shown nature is important to children’s development intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically. But the district has a finite amount of funding for field trips, butterfly gardens and nature projects.

“We want to provide more opportunities as a communitywide initiative and more opportunities for kids,” he said. “It was a natural partnership between the school district and John.

“John certainly is passionate about it and it’s his mission right now, and we want to support him in it.”

Raising awareness

To McGrew’s delight, the task force has made headway.

It is sponsoring a presentation this week, “The Ecology of Hope: Building a Movement to Reconnect Children and Nature,” by Cheryl Charles. For 20 years, Charles served as director of Project Learning Tree and Project Wild, two of the most widely used environmental education programs in North America for K-12 educators. She is president of the Children and Nature Network. She will give the presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Free State High School.

To help promote the presentation, the task force also is sponsoring essay and art contests for children in grades kindergarten through 12.

“We were just looking for creative ways to raise awareness,” said Katherine Dinsdale, a trustee of the Lawrence Schools Foundation and a member of the task force. “I just think the best advocates for this are children who have experienced nature and love it and know in their gut that it’s important.”

A Web site is in the works and the task force has a logo, “Outside For a Better Inside.” Gregory Thomas, chairman of KU’s Department of Design, created the logo, which has a Monarch butterfly.

“The butterfly, of course, represents where they want to go with these butterfly gardens. It also has a lot to do with growth and metamorphosis of changing a spirit.”

Comments

Janet Lowther 6 years, 5 months ago

One reason children aren't told to go out and play is parents are paranoid about child abductions.

While "Amber alerts" are, indeed appropriate, there needs to be a distinction between parental abductions and stranger abductions.

When an abduction is believed to be a parent abduction, that needs to be made clear in the alert: While these are violations of custody orders, to me at least, they seem far less alarming than stranger abductions.

Scott Drummond 6 years, 5 months ago

There are quite a few adults who ought to think about taking the same lesson.

Confrontation 6 years, 5 months ago

This sounds like a worthy venture. Kids need to get away from the video games and actually do something that stimulates their brains for the better. Now, if we could just get the parents out of the house and down the street to a park with their kids, then we might be on to something.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

While I can applaud this effort John is putting forth it also occurs to me that John may well contradict himself.

How? By covering up much so much wild space with a variety of structures at a cost to the taxpayers. AND his never ending participation to destroy the wetlands. The above ground wildlife is getting chased off to wherever they can find refuge.... that which is becoming evermore difficult.

Otherwise John and I are on the same page regarding children, nature and their electronic devices. John you are embarking on an endeavor to save children from their parents..... more power to you. The Haskell-Baker Wetlands is extraordinary.

infinity13 6 years, 5 months ago

An article about children being in nature gets a comment about Amber Alert distinctions? I understand your concern but get a life. Take you kid to Clinton Lake. They don't have to be alone. Maybe YOU need an appreciation for nature.

moose461 6 years, 5 months ago

well said infinity 13. I would also like to add that John Mcgrew has brought many tasteful developments in Lawrence to life. And thankfully he incoporated nature in some way shape or form to each project, whether it be a pond, prairie, or some kind of garden. Nature has always been in John's thought process when thinking about development!

christy kennedy 6 years, 5 months ago

This is a step back in the right direction. Big thanks to those involved.

spankyandcranky 6 years, 5 months ago

Sounds great! I'd love to take a nature walk just to educate myself on local plantlife. I've felt for a long time that kids are missing out by being so tuned in to their electronics. Besides needing a certain amount of sun every day, people benefit from seeing plants and the other living things that are around them.

rivercitymom 6 years, 5 months ago

Getting kids to a park is one thing, but having access to a primitive area that isn't too far away is quite another!

We have a great resource right in town, Hidden Valley Camp, the 40 acres just northwest of Kasold and Bob Billing Parkway. The land is owned by the adult Girl Scouts of Dougas County and isn't often open to the public (scouts use it all the time), but on Saturday, April 18, the camp will host a camp carnival, the Arcalooka Adventure, from 3 to 6 p.m., to celebrate the 50th birthday of Arcalooka Cabin at the camp. Lots of fun games and cheap food. Also, there a Cast Iron Chef Cook-off!

more info at http://www.lawrencehiddenvalley.org/events.htm

lounger 6 years, 5 months ago

Nice intention but...as someone pointed out if he wants kids to reconnect to nature dont build over so much of it!

moose461 6 years, 5 months ago

Lounger, your name is vindicative of your intent! you obviousy have not been outside to the nature preserves John has built. you find me a piece of ground John has not made better than it was before and I will agree with you. My guess is you will not!

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