I don’t normally promote my husband Rafe Kelley’s work with Evolve Move Play all that much, but this challenge is too good to pass up.
Starting on Arbor Day (but you can really start any time), Rafe is inviting people to climb a tree for 30 days, and tag their friends to climb three trees or donate to the Arbor Day Foundation, or plant a tree! Use the hashtag #treeclimb30 to tag your posts.
Rafe is doing this for many reasons, including…
Promote outdoor physical play and movement,
Foster a love of trees and the outdoors,
Get people playing in their local communities,
Remind people that it’s okay to climb trees, and
To have fun!
This is an international push, bringing in participants from Europe as well, including certified Evolve Move Play (EMP) coach Ben Medder, based just outside of London (UK).
He is also trying to motivate participating with prizes, so stay tuned to his channels for more details:
Fall is finally upon us here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not going to deny it anymore. But even as the weather gets cooler, my family and I are still finding ways to get outside and play.
I have always loved playing outside, climbing on rocks, trees, hiking, and splashing in puddles, and really want to pass this love of nature and outdoor movement on to my kids. It is so great to see other parents encourage their kids, and other grown-ups, to discover and recover their biophilia and love of playing outdoors.
One of the best outdoor play advocates I have met in a long time is Katy Bowman, although for her, moving and exploring the outdoors is simply behaving like a normal human.
Katy is a biomechanist with a deservedly large following of movement practitioners using her Restorative Exercise program. Katy is a huge advocate of natural movement and getting outside as much as possible, and encourages it with her kids as well. Katy talks about their experience in their outdoor “nature” preschool on her blog and podcast, but the enriching environments she has set up for her kids at home is in a class by itself.
Katy graciously invited my family out to her house outside of a small town on the Olympic Peninsula earlier this summer.
When we pull up to her house, the front yard looks fairly typical for any house containing small children; a few toys are strewn around the yard, slightly hidden by the uncut grass. Her husband and children have just headed off down the road for a walk. She helps us unload our brood out of the car after the long drive and immediately invites my daughter to explore, with me in tow.
We step out of the house into the backyard, and it is perfect.
My three-year-old daughter’s eyes light up like she’s hit the motherlode.
The lawn is littered with toys – costumes, stuffed animals, balls, a Little Tyke’s scooter car. There is a big basket of LEGOs sitting on the porch waiting to be dumped over and played with.
There are also complex toys laid out intentionally by Katy and her husband Michael for her kids to play with. A tippy rope ladder strung between two trees with a foam mat underneath; ladders laid on the ground for balancing, a jungle gym, a circle swing, large wooden ramps placed strategically up to table tops. The cherry tree is also filled with cherries, for good measure.
The kids have gotten creative with some of their building materials, including taking a couple of blocks from the flower box and made a corral for their plastic farm animals. They have also left little illustrations stealthily added around inside the house: on the wooden bed frame, the balance ball in Katy’s office, and on a couple of door frames.
And that’s before we even meet the chickens or go down to the Dungeness River to throw rocks, wade, climb, and make structures in the sand.
It is obvious the kids have the run of the house, and its affect is wonderful.
Katy has created a practice based on her high level training in biomechanics and years of teaching experience centered on creating a healthy, mobile human being, and this practice is reflected in how she and Michael have set up their home environment. Every space is open for movement, jump, climb, and play. There are edges and imperfectly balanced steps and slight risks everywhere. The kids must learn to navigate their environment safely, and have a blast doing it.
Katy often talks about getting her kids outside and exposed to new, playful challenges. And yet, when I ask her about it, she almost baulks at the idea she is supporting a primarily “playful” environment. For her, this is simply survival, teaching her little humans how to be human. She is merely creating and supporting healthy behaviors, what kids and grownups should be doing all the time.
They let their children go slow, at their pace. Their kids learn by doing, by experiencing. As do we all, really. It’s true that, thanks to the visit, I now have more confidence in being able to ford a fast-moving stream carrying my toddler. And it wasn’t part of a survival training camp or an emergency. It was part of our Sunday family outing. It may sound small or frivolous or “not necessary,” but for the survival of our species, that skill is a big deal.
To me, this kind of activity is not just good for restoring our body and capability to move, it is also restorative to our psyches and filling that need to explore and play at our own pace and learn in a playful way.
Finally my family has to head home. We take the time to let our kids say good night to the chickens before we load back into our car, driving away with the sunset on our backs. After getting to see and play in Katy’s backyard, both the grown-ups and the kids in our family feel renewed, replenished, and ready to play and explore our own backyard and our home environment in a new way.
I highly recommend digging in to Katy’s materials. She has some great ideas and thoughts around leading a healthy, restorative, and in my mind playful movement practice, whether it’s in nature or just in your own backyard.
Cool idea, if perhaps a little, um, well, er, too organic?
The Soundscraper is a futuristic structure designed to transform auditory vibrations from bustling cities into a source of clean energy. Designed by Julien Bourgeois, Olivier Colliez, Savinien de Pizzol, Cedric Dounval and Romain Grouselle, the Soundscraper is covered with noise-sensitive cilia that harvest kinetic energy while soaking up urban noise pollution.
I love these OpenIDEO public challenges, so I was thrilled when I saw this challenge alert pop up in my inbox (and then unfortunately let it get buried for a week, oops!) about ideas on how to make communities more involved and engaged in their environments.
Public agencies such as Singapore’s National Environment Agency would like to envision how to rejuvenate our local environments to inspire and enable communities to make our living environments better – and are eager to collaborate with the global community to explore solutions which resonate in Singapore and across the world.
In this challenge we are looking to try and explore the following questions, both for Singapore and for communities everywhere that face similar challenges.
How might we better collectively solve problems facing our neighbourhoods?
How might communities look out for each other more?
How might we provide a safe space for positive and constructive action?
How might we help passive citizens become active contributors?
How might the role of the government evolve in the future, with regards to local neighbourhoods?
In short, what does community ownership look like in 2012 and beyond? The National Environment Agency invites you to join us in designing better answers, together.
Let’s collect examples of existing initiatives and explore the challenge topic to inform our ideas for the upcoming Concepting phase.
It’s a question that I bring up a lot on the blog, and share different examples of how communities around the world are doing just that, from adding public art to bee and butterfly gardens to building playgrounds. I am bubbling with excitement over this challenge, and have lots of different ideas, but there are only 14 more days to submit ideas and I want to make sure mine are really good, eek!
What have you seen that worked in growing communities to keep the residents and developers motivated to preserve the surrounding environments, rather than bulldoze them over for a quick couple hundred bucks? What are some of your ideas? Have you seen any story of community building on this blog that screams “Yes, this is the answer!”? Submit your ideas at the OpenIDEO website.
With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, it’s time to think about getting outdoors and dining al fresco. But what if you live in a place that is rainy all through Memorial Day weekend (not pointing fingers, Seattle!), or you don’t have a lot of green space to play with? Fear not! From Inhabitat:
Haiko Cornelissen‘s lush, living PicNYC Table is a brilliant plant-growing furnishing that brings a taste of the outdoors to every meal. The aluminum table is deep enough to double as a planter bed, and it can grow everything from grass to herbs and flowers. We caught up with Haiko at this year’s Wanted Design exhibition during NY Design Week to ask him about his inspiration and snap some firsthand photo.
Getting some greenery, even with something as simple as a grassy table, can work wonders for picking up mood and feeling refreshed. Even having an indoor plant on your desk has been shown to improve productivity. Bon Appetit!
It’s written a bit like a public service announcement, but I still appreciate this article written by Izilwane, a non-profit group that deals with biodiversity internationally (full disclosure: I have contributed a free article to this group about research I have done on informal education. You can read it here), and featured on National Geographic News:
Children see the world through innocent eyes, eyes that see the unique beauty in even the most unimpressive puddle. To them, a tree is not just a plant but an entire jungle gym of adventure; a small plot of pines is not just a barrier between yards but an entire forest full of mystical creatures; a day at the beach is never simply sun and sand but the search for pirate treasure and lost shipwrecks.
By nurturing our species’ youngest members, by encouraging them to play outside, we are not only bolstering their imaginations but also encouraging creative problem solving, better concentration and social development. Kids who enjoy nature also grow up with an innate sense of responsibility and respect for the environment and all it has to offer.
How do we reconnect our youth with nature? How do we continue to teach our kids the importance of protecting our wild places? How do we reinvigorate children’s enthusiasm for playing outside? Here at Izilwane, we’re trying to combat the ever-growing apathy toward nature and provide youth – and those who work with them – with tools they can use to both learn and teach: a comprehensive and ever-growing list of resources for teachers; a story corner, which will feature anecdotal tales of youth connecting to nature; photo and video galleries that illustrate Izilwane’s work with students from around the world; and articles that highlight some of the strategies international educators are using to reach out to local children.
I think they make a very good point about the importance of getting kids involved and engaged with animals and biodiversity at an early age. Not only does it help cultivate more empathy for animals and an appreciation for biodiversity, it’s also good for kids to learn about their environments and nature in order just to understand how the world works.
From the blog How Do you Landscape; a group from the UK has created an app that can be used to measure our happiness based on our surroundings, and using maps to look at the data:
“People feel better outside than inside”. “People feel better in the park/woods/nature than in the city”. These are some of the conclusions from a project with the telling title ‘Mappiness’ Good news for landscape and Landscape Architecture on first sight. But are these only one-liners or firmly based scientific statements? Well, that depends on the quality of the empirical evidence of course. Most experience sample methods (ESM) have a hard time getting a representative group (in the end almost only colleagues) that has to struggle trough tedious interview forms (“it will take only twenty minutes”) to step-by-step end up with modest results. How about a sample group of 47.331 people (and growing by the day) who willingly support their data three times a day to the researchers that by now collected over three million forms in a few months? I stumbled upon these remarkable Experience research feats in a TedxBrighton 2011. In this “Twenty minutes lecture” George MacKerron explains why and how he and Susana Mourato (both from the Department of Geography & Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science) created ‘mappiness’. They want to better understand how people’s feelings are affected by features of their current environment. Things like air pollution, noise, and green spaces influence your well being is their hypothesis.
This is how it works. They developed an app that can be downloaded for free. It must be one of the most irritating apps around on the web because it rings you (with your approval, you can influence the settings) three times a day to ask you three simple questions.
When put through a big regression model they can gauge the happiness as the function of habitat type, activity, companionship, weather conditions (there is of course a link between meteorological data and the GPS data), daylight conditions, location type (in, out, home, work, etc), ambient noise level, time of the day, response speed, and individual ‘fixed-effects’ (that come out of your personal Mappiness-history). Factors can be plotted out against each other.
How awesome is that? What a neat piece of technology to measure our surroundings and how they influence us!
It’s cold and wet here in the northwest, so it’s nice to be reminded that somewhere relatively nearby (ok, 800 miles, but still!), it’s warm and sunny:
Fresno’s Forestiere Underground Gardens are one of California’s most beautiful feats of historical environmental design. Built by Sicilian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere over 40 years of his life, the subterranean gardensare fed with skylights and catch basins. Working totally on impulse, Forestiere designed the retreat without blueprints or plans – and his only tools were a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow.