" aimed at inspiring families to get up and go outdoors. Children today are the first of the "indoor generation." Electronic forms of entertainment, such as computers and video game systems, have kept them indoors and "detached" from the natural world.
On the "Be Out There" website, the NWF states that children are spending more than 6 hours/day engaged with electronic media, decreasing their time spent outside by more than 50% compared to previous generations. Growing up indoors has its consequences. Lack of creativity, impaired concentration, decreased classroom performance, poor social skills, aggression, decreased physical activity, and increased risk for obesity have been linked with a greater time spent indoors.
Connecting with the natural world through outdoor play enhances the mental and physical health of children and can improve their performance in the classroom. Interaction with the out-of-doors fosters creativity, decreases stress, reduces symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and increases physical fitness. The "Be Out There" initiative advocates that parents provide their children with a daily "Green Hour
" during which they have unstructured play outdoors. This time spent connecting with the natural world can occur in any green space such as their own backyard, the woods, open fields, and local parks.
Many communities have nature centers that offer programs to help children (and adults) connect with nature. The Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center in Troy, Michigan offers the Jr. Naturalist Club, an award-winning program, for children ages 4 years through the 5th grade. The Jr. Naturalist Club meets once per month through the school year, and for one week in July. Stacey Yankee, the Nature Center Manager at the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center, states that the nearly year-long program is designed to allow children to explore and experience the outdoors during the different seasons. They can see how the natural world changes as the seasons change.
Yankee notes that the hands-on activities of the Jr. Naturalist Club program are age-appropriate and tailored to the abilities of the children. Each month has a different theme with projects designed to engage the children with the natural world. This month, the children had the opportunity to make apple cider by using the apple press to grind the apples. Pond studies and the use of insect sweep nets are a few examples of the many nature-connecting activities available to the Jr. Naturalist Club member.
According to Yankee, the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center, which is 100 acres with 2 miles of walking trails, is [a little bit of] "Up North right here in Troy." For families who have little yard space or very few trees on their property, this is an important asset of the city. Yankee states that the Jr. Naturalist Club program allows the children to "witness all that nature has that they can't get in their yard at home... [a way] to connect with nature and to feel what it is like to be in the woods." For more information on the Jr. Naturalist Club, and the other programs offered by the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center, call (248) 524-3567. The Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center is located at 6685 Coolidge Highway in Troy.
Join the "Be Out There" initiative this weekend and take a walk in the woods, a place that my daughter describes as "The Outdoor Funhouse."
Stacey Yankee, Nature Center Manager at the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center, 6685 Coolidge Highway, Troy, Michigan, 48098; (248) 524-3567.