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.
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.
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!
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.
Some disused, overgrown tennis courts near where we live are going to be converted into a community play garden, and I would love to hear your ideas about what could be done there. I am keen for the garden to be a great place for local children and families: where they can have the kind of playful, hands-on, exploratory experiences of nature that I highlighted in my Sowing the Seeds report.