“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
Rachel Carson Silent Spring, 1962
August 25th is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916.
Do you know where you can find our nation’s first National Park, and which park that is? Fun Fact to share with the kids in your life: “The FIRST US National Park is Yellowstone, which was created in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming, but parts of the park extend into Idaho and Montana. In it’s entirety, the US National Park system includes 412 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshore, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. Chances are you live near one these, and entrance is free for you and your family from August 25-28th.
As Climate Mamas and Papas, we need to be the guides, the pied pipers and the role models extraordinaire when it comes to showing our kids why they should be outside exploring nature. While our children may know and learn much more than we do about the threats our planet faces, like climate change, their direct contact with nature is likely much less then ours was when we were kids. As more and more people live more “urban” lives, and as technology plays a bigger part in our more limited free time, our hands on relationship with nature and that of our children’s, has been reduced.Richard Louv, in his book, The Last Child in The Woods, uses the example of visits to the national park system and how they have dropped significantly since the late 1980s’s as one example of our growing disconnect with nature. He ties this with a 2006 study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago who show that an overwhelming percentage of the drop in attendance at our national parks (more than 90%!) is due to the increased time Americans spend plugged into electronics. Other reasons included: “shorter vacation time, shortage of family time, the shrinking American “road trip,” a decline in park budgets and services, and increased entrance fees.”
So if you haven’t already done so this summer, UNPLUG AND UNPLUG your kids, and get outside! Visit one of our amazing, incredible and unique national parks, monuments, sites and recreation areas. The are OURS and OURs to explore, visit and get to know. Keep a family log of visits, see how many you can get to.
And if you can’t get to a National Park, get outside anyway!
Here are our TOP 5 warm weather favorite outdoor activities you can do with the children in your life:
1. Native Nature Scavenger Hunt: whereever you live, a planet, insect, mineral or animal is “native” to your area. Many of the native animal and plant species that use to thrive in a given area, may be hiding “in plain site” or in fact on their way to becoming extinct. Manicured lawns in the suburbs and gentrified city parks often are planted with vegitation that“looks” pretty, but may not be native to your region. Take out a book at the local library on local plants and animals and explore your yard or park with the kids in our life and find and identify 5 species native to your area!2. After the Rain: Get out after a rainstorm and run barefoot in the puddles with the kids in your life. Let the mud squish between your toes and experience nature up close. After a rainstorm is also a great time to look for earthworms, which “surface” after it rains. Catch a few and examine them closely before you return them to the garden.
3. Chase a lightning bug (or firefly): If you live in the northeast, the spring is a magical time to view lightning bugs. These creatures love warm moist conditions, and appear in large numbers in the springtime when the conditions are ripe. Stay up late, and as the sun goes down, chase down some of these creatures with the kids in your life. If you have a local pond or marshy area near some trees or shrubs, this is “prime” firefly territory. Catch a few in a jar and watch them closely, but remember to let them out when you are done!
4. Bug Hunting: Find a tree stump or fallen tree, a big rock, or rotting piece of wood, grab the kids in your life and slowly pick it up! Watch them (and the bugs underneath) scurry with delight. Find out what lives “under a rock!”
5. Bird Rise: Get up before the sunrise, or better yet, sleep outside, and as the sun comes up, listen to nature as it wakes up with the sun. Not only do “roosters crow” but many birds start chirping as the sun rises, not just in the country, but in the middle of the city too. See if you can get a “bird” book, and identify 5 local bird species.