Earlier this month I went to Denmark to give a speech at the Nordic Adventure conference, whose theme was reconnecting children with nature. It was not my first visit to the region. I can clearly remember that trip: a study tour in 2003 during my secondment to Whitehall to lead the first UK Government review of children’s play. Back then, I came home inspired by what I had seen – like the nature park at Valbyparken, which had just been built, and which is now one of the city’s most popular parks.
Many of the international delegates to this conference also came looking for inspiration. But this time, I had a different goal. I wanted to get behind the success stories – the beautiful spaces, the switched-on educators, the generously funded programmes – and find out whether it really is so easy for the Nordic nations to make nature a meaningful part of children’s everyday lives. I wanted to hear about the problems, the barriers and the challenges.
Posted in Education, Learning, Nature, Public policy
Tagged copenhagen, Denmark, education, nature, norway, outdoor learning, policy, Scandinavia, sweden
George Bernard Shaw allegedly once advised that if you are going to espouse radical ideas, you should wear a respectable suit. David Bond, director and protagonist of the new documentary film Project Wild Thing, clearly has no time for Shaw’s advice: at one point he appears in a huge squirrel costume, manically leafleting a shopping mall in an effort to switch uninterested consumers on to the joys of nature (a scene that crops up in the trailer at the end of this post).
Project Wild Thing, like Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods and my own Sowing the Seeds report, takes up the challenge of reconnecting children with nature and the outdoors. At the start of the film Bond (channelling Pete, the longsuffering dad in the hit BBC sitcom Outnumbered) tries to pull his 3- and 5-year old kids away from their screens and go outside to play. Faced with stubborn resistance, he appoints himself Marketing Director of Nature to, in his words, “flog the benefits of nature to the public”. (And he really did – I blogged about one of his schemes last summer.)
Here’s a seasonal activity for you, with a hint – or more than a hint – of adventure: leaf-pile-diving.
Posted in Learning, Nature, Outdoor play, Risk
Tagged adventure, autumn, deep play, freedom, nature, nature play, Risk, video
Want to offer your kids – or the kids you work with – a simple, cheap way to get closer to nature? Just follow these three simple steps. 1: get yourself down to your nearest health clinic to buy/scrounge some specimen jars like the ones in this photo. 2: buy some magnifying glasses online (around 50p/a dollar each). 3: head for your nearest green space, and start hunting!
I am very pleased to announce that I will be returning to Australia in late October for a couple of weeks or so, visiting Melbourne, Queensland and Perth. In Melbourne, I’m talking at the new Royal Botanical Gardens Cranbourne site, just a few days after it is fully opened to the public. I’m also renewing my connection with VicHealth at an invitation-only masterclass for senior regional local government.
The movement to reconnect children with nature has just had a shot in the arm, with the launch yesterday of a new website and campaign to get 1 million children away from screens and out of doors. Called Project Wild Thing, the campaign is the brainchild of the film-makers Green Lions, along with supporters that include the National Trust, Play England, and food giant Arla.