Some new ideas for getting kids outdoors

For the past few days, I’ve been participating in Robert Bateman’s Get To Know your wild neighbours unconference. This has been several days of discussions around getting kids involved in nature. Tons of ideas.

Here are the two biggest ones that I’ve heard so far. In his keynote speech the other night, Robert Bateman suggested that the best thing that we can all do is simply take your children and their friends and parents into the outdoors. It’s really simple, but that’s what will make it work. Make it a weekly habit and pretty soon we will have a lot more kids going outdoors.

But what do you do when you get out there? How will you know what to tell the kids about the various species? That’s where the second idea comes in – and it’s really simple – take photos of various species and go home and learn something new about the species. Parks could help with that as well by thinking about their park design. How many times have you been walking through a forest and seen a sign that has the Latin name of the tree and no other information? That is the ultimate “so what?” moment. Those signs should have some more information about the species. They could tell us something about the plants and help people learn something deeper about them. We should all write letters to the local parks departments offering to help research one plant to help this happen. It wouldn’t take much – one fun fact on a laminated sign would be enough.

I think we need to understand that getting kids outdoors doesn’t mean going to a national park (though there are lots of great reasons to go to a national park – check out my parks pass for grade eight students for a free way to get in) – going for a walk in the local park, a walk on the boardwalk or exploring a local wood lot on a local level make a huge difference on the lives of young people.

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