behavior · children · learning · Nature · work

There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

Crews of juvenile inmates have been sent to fight wildfires in Washington state since the 1960s.

Their mission: Make sandwiches, dig trenches and build fire lines to keep flames at bay. They can pull 16-hour shifts and earn between 70 cents and $1.60 an hour. The youngest are 15; the eldest, 20.

“The kids go to fires all over the state,” said David Griffith of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration in Olympia. “It’s something they want to do.”

Source: There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

When I first read this article I was shocked that they would send teenagers out to do this job. And then I realized what a great opportunity and program this was actually an amazing opportunity.

The teenagers get outside into nature, which has been shown to have a ridiculous amount of benefits around concentration, calming and serenity. It gets them exercising, which also has amazing physical and psychological benefits. They learn skills they can use as grown-ups, they learn to work as a team, they learn to take orders, and they are giving back to other people in need, like someone who’s house is in danger of being burned down.

This is not exactly play, but it is an applied real-world education, and while some commenters have been upset by the small amount of money they make, frankly I don’t think that matters, especially if we think of this program as an addition to the regular traditional education that they’d be receiving in public school or in correctional facilities. In fact I suspect if you offered this program to public high schools it would fill up in a matter of days.

There are also programs like this in California. With the scary fires and kid escaping this past month Washington is reevaluating whether to keep it going. I hope they continue this program and encourage similar programs for kids “in the system.”

behavior · children · culture · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Nature · play

Nature Valley shows chilling faces of children addicted to technology

Okay, ignore that this is a granola company’s commercial.

And they may have cherry-picked to prove a point.


The fact that even these kids exist is terrifying.

Just watch the video. And cringe. Mourn. Cry. Then go do something about it!

Children are obsessed with technology, and Nature Valley wants us to be afraid. Very afraid.

That seems to be the message of this new ad for the granola bar company, which asks three generations of families: “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?”

The elder two generations share memories of blueberry picking, sledding, fishing trips, and playing baseball as airy music plays in the background.

But then it’s the younger generation’s turn, and ominous music suggests these kids aren’t exactly frolicking in the grass and soaking in the sunshine. The kids detail that they spend five hours a day texting, emailing, tweeting, browsing the computer, or playing video games as the parents cry or lament the death of the good old days.

h/t via Nature Valley shows chilling faces of children addicted to technology (Mashable).

This is not okay people. So, so, the opposite of okay!

Go volunteer to take your niece or nephew to the park, or go hunt for cool leaves and flowers in the park. Grow a flower or even spider plant and give it to a kid! Take action!

behavior · children · community · environment · health · learning · Nature · school

Playing in the garden: Kids learn about gardening, bugs and flowers at WSU Extension

This is a great example of how even “country kids” – all of these kids come from communities surrounded by farmland and agriculture – enjoy and appreciate hands-on experiences and learning about gardening and the natural environment.

Kids learn about gardening, bugs and flowers at WSU Extension | All Access |

About 70 classmates participated Thursday in the Washington State University Skagit County Extension Master Gardener’s “Discovery In Gardening — Is Terrific” (DIG-IT) youth education program.

“It introduces kids to how the garden works, from the growth of the plants to how it arrives in your kitchen and what to do with the scraps,” said Master Gardener Chuck Howell.

The program was started in 2002 by two teachers, Master Gardener Gail Messett said.

The format of the program has changed over the years, Messett said, but the goal has remained the same: Get kids outside and into the garden.

“They’re learning respect for insects and bees and flowers,” Messet said. “I think they go home pretty awestruck, actually.”

more via Kids learn about gardening, bugs and flowers at WSU Extension | All Access |

children · environment · happiness · health · learning · mental health · Nature · neuroscience · play

IS PLAY THE KEY TO ECO-ACTION? : Children & Nature Network

Environmental Psychology and conservationists have, for awhile now, been advocating the importance of letting children get out and play in and with nature to educate them on the value of preserving their environment and benefiting from natural surroundings. It’s nice to see pediatricians also start to embrace and advocate for the need for everyone, including children, get outside and get dirty.

Dr. Lawrence Rosen writes that throughout his practice, seeing children on a daily basis, “I’m often reminded of Winslow Homer’s 1872 painting, “Snap the Whip,” depicting boys playing with abandon in a field outside their rural schoolhouse.”

So eloquently portrayed is the simplicity of another time, kids out in the natural world for no other purpose than to play, freely and without a care in the world.Contrast this with contemporary schoolyards with their meticulously designed jungle gyms and artificial surfacing, often empty throughout the day as more and more schools abolish recess or replace free play with highly structured, adult-supervised activities. I’ve realized, as I see increasingly anxious and depressed children come to my office looking for guidance, that the answers often lie not in my prescription pad but outside my window.

One very recent publication from Dr. Kirsten Beyer and associates at the Medical College of Wisconsin described the influence of green space on mental health outcomes, concluding that “higher levels of neighborhood green space were associated with significantly lower levels of symptomology for depression, anxiety and stress” and that “’greening’ could be a potential population mental health improvement strategy in the United States.”

read more from Dr. Rosen via IS HAPPINESS THE KEY TO ECO-ACTION? : The New Nature Movement.

anthropology · behavior · children · education · health · learning · music · play

To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music And Gym : NPR Ed : NPR

This gives me hope:

In the stuffy, little gymnasium at Richard Kluge Elementary in Milwaukee, 16 boys and girls are stretching, jumping and marching to music.

Two years ago, the school had no gym, art or music classes due to budget cuts. But now, Kluge students get a so-called “special” class three days a week.

Milwaukee Public Schools is one of several school systems across the country — including Los Angeles, San Diego and Nashville, Tenn. — that are re-investing in subjects like art and physical education. The Milwaukee school district is hiring new specialty teachers with the hope of attracting more families and boosting academic achievement.Music teacher Angie Dvorak is one of the teachers that’s been effected. Last year, Dvorak was part time and traveled between schools. This year, she’s stays at Kluge all day, teaching music upstairs from the school’s gymnasium.

Dvorak says she’s seen a different in her students: “I get to have them for class more frequently, which is awesome because their music skills are shooting through the roof this year.”

more via To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music And Gym : NPR Ed : NPR.

anthropology · behavior · brain · children · community · culture · education · environment · happiness · health · learning · play · psychology · Social

Plug for the NGO Right to Play

I tweeted about this short film yesterday, but I really feel like this is worth giving some space on the blog for.

The value of play is important for teaching life skills like conflict resolution and collaboration, health lessons, healing from trauma, building community and just overall survival as a child and human being, the work this organization does seems simple but is hugely important.

This short video highlights some of the incredible impact that play can have on a child, or group of children.

You can also visit the organization’s website at Right to Play.

Play matters!


architecture · children · cognition · design · education · environment · learning

Are Teachers Distracting Students With Bad Interior Design? | Co.Design | business + design

These findings make sense to me and yet also don’t.


Image credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Few environments feature such a cacophony of decor as the elementary school classroom. Colorful bulletin boards, scientific posters, state maps, and student artwork tend to cover nearly every inch of wall space. Yet a new study on classroom design from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University suggests that all that educational flair may not be all that great for getting kids to learn.

The study, carried out over two weeks, examined 24 kindergarten students who were taught six lessons on topics they had not yet learned in school. Half the lessons were taught in a highly decorated classroom environment, with posters and art all over the walls, and the other half were taught in a classroom with no decoration.

CMU’s researchers found the kids spent more time off-task and were more distracted when the room was brightly decorated, and they tested better on subjects they learned in the sparser classroom compared to the ones they learned in the more visually stimulating environment.

Elementary school children typically stay in one room all day, so classroom decorations don’t necessarily match the subject matter they’re learning at any given time. If they’re sitting in front of a U.S. map, they’ll be looking at that all day whether the current lesson is on geography or math. This study, though very small, adds to previous research from the same psychologists showing that visual stimulation that’s irrelevant to on-going instruction can distract kids.

more via Are Teachers Distracting Students With Bad Interior Design? | Co.Design | business + design.

The study doesn’t go on to offer any ways to necessarily improve the classroom design, although the article does give other links discussing it.

Nature can be fairly visually cacophonous, so what is it about classroom designs that are so distracting? I also wonder how much of their distraction is from an unnatural learning style, and then other more engaging things to look at. That is not an attack on the teacher, I’m just skeptical whether any human is capable of sitting in one room for 6-8 hours, with a couple of lunch breaks, and concentrate the entire time, for an extended period of time. Even grown-ups have a hard time doing that, and suffer when they try to sustain that for too long.

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.

behavior · children · community · environment · family · Nature · play

Grab a copy of 21 Days in the Woods and start a group session | Elisabeth M. Stone

We’re too late to join Elisabeth Stone on her group session she had back in February, but I still loved this idea of making a 21 day challenge to get outside!

21 Days in the Woods Poster

21 Days in the Woods is a connection project to get you and your family out in the woods once a day for 21 days. It is well-structured and adaptable to any age range. When you purchase your immediate download of the workbook, you can choose to work through it now or later

more via Grab a copy of 21 Days in the Woods and join us for a group session on February 1st. | Elisabeth M. Stone.

April has just started, and it’s starting to feel more and more like Spring, so take a look and see about how you can challenge yourself to get out into the woods.

behavior · children · community · creativity · health

Anti-loneliness augmented quilt comforts children in hospital (Wired UK)

An older article, but too charming and innovative not to share on the blog:

A patchwork quilt aims to combat separation issues and distress in hospitalised children by allowing them to helping them to communicate with their families using augmented reality.

Each of the quilt’s 20 squares is decorated with a unique multi-coloured animal or plant design and can be linked to an individual friend or family member. Loved ones can then leave messages for children to access with Aurasma, an app which uses the camera on a phone or tablet to recognise the unique image and overlay content — a picture, photo or video — so that it pops up on the screen.

The quilt is designed to serve as both a comforting, tactile object and a method of communication

more via Anti-loneliness augmented quilt comforts children in hospital (Wired UK).

architecture · children · creativity · design · health · play

These are the most fantastical playgrounds ever built

Having fun, exciting spaces to play is important for both kids and grown-ups, so it’s nice to see what’s out there for kids, and hopefully grown-ups will follow suit.

When you’re a kid, visiting an amazing playground is the greatest experience ever. And these fantasy-themed playgrounds around the world have us wishing that we were kids again so we could run around in them like small, crazy people.

more via These are the most fantastical playgrounds ever built.

All of these are in more urban settings, and it would be cool to see some more natural playscapes, but the ideas behind some of these parks are fantastic!