Recently my work has had a strong focus on the built environment: how the decisions and actions of planners, highway engineers, designers and others shape children’s lives. Which has meant that the other side of my work – connecting with educators, playworkers and others who work directly with children – has taken a back seat.
But last weekend at the Natural Phenomena conference in Whangarei, New Zealand, the educators were to the fore. And it reminded me that there’s nothing quite like hanging out with people who are deeply committed to children, and deeply engaged in the sometimes messy, sometimes challenging, sometimes joyous art and practice of supporting children’s learning and play. So at the risk of seeming self-indulgent, I’d like to share some of the feelings and experiences of that remarkable time and place.
So our new Mayor has made a public commitment that all children should have access to nature. The Government will also soon launch a new plan to restore nature and reconnect children to it. How might Mayor Khan fulfil this ambitious pledge so that London also leads on the Government strategy?
For a blueprint, Sadiq need look no further than my 2011 Sowing the Seeds report, whose central vision strongly echoes his commitment. My goal in writing the report was to get beyond the warm words and (let’s be honest) at times nostalgic sentiment that tends to frame this topic.
Sowing the Seeds took a hard-nosed look at the evidence to show how spending time in nature enhances children’s physical and emotional well-being and learning, and fosters their concern for their environment.
I am heading back to Australia and New Zealand in around three weeks, and am pleased to share some reflections, along with my schedule.
My trip takes in a flying visit to Auckland, followed by a week in Adelaide, before finishing with another week in Queensland. I will be joined in QLD by David Bond (kindred spirit, documentary film-maker, star of Project Wild Thing and self-appointed Marketing Director of Nature). A full itinerary is at the end of this post.
I am excited to announce that in three weeks I will be embarking on a coast-to-coast speaking and workshop tour of Canada. It will take in BC (Vancouver and Victoria), Alberta (Lethbridge and Calgary), Ontario (Niagara and Toronto) and Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is a near-final itinerary near the end of this post.
This post shares news of more positive developments in Australia, including a new video promoting street play, and some new state-wide networks that aim to reconnect children with nature.
First, street play: this video is from Gavin Fairbrother and the OPAL (Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle) project based at Campbelltown in South Australia, and spreads the word about the potential of the model originally drawn up by Playing Out here in the UK.
I have long been a fan of – and cheerleader for – the forest school movement. That is why I am happy to give my support to Love Trees Love Wood – a new crowdfunding initiative that aims to spread its reach and impact. And I am inviting you to do the same.