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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

This year, June was proclaimed Great Outdoors Month, and now, school is out and the weather is hot. We hear over and over in the news media that kids these days just want to stare at their devices instead of going outside and getting exercise and fresh air. And it's true that today's sedentary lifestyles have made it so this generation is the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. If that's not enough to get you and the kids in your life off your couches and into the wild, here are a few videos to make the case for the value of connecting kids to nature.

Video Playlist: The Great Outdoors

Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.

 

  1. Take the Pledge to Be Out There! (01:04)

    The National Wildlife Federation is committed to getting kids outdoors with their Be Out There campaign, which has been sharing resources and actively promoting getting kids into nature since 2008.

  2. Project Wild Thing (Official Film Trailer) (02:05)

    Project Wild Thing is not just a powerful documentary about the growing disconnect between children and nature, it's also aiming to become a global movement. Find great activity ideas on their website.

  3. 10 Things You Should Know About Forest School (02:16)

    Have you heard of waldkindergarten, or forest kindergarten in English? Pioneered in northern Europe in the 1970s, it's early childhood education that occurs entirely outdoors, no matter the season. A growing number of them are popping up in the US, like this one in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

  4. The Importance of Playing With Fire (Literally) (03:08)

    A recent article in The Atlantic, "The Overprotected Kid," discussed how parental anxiety can keep kids from taking the risks that help them learn. This is a trailer for an upcoming documentary about The Land, a Welsh playground featured in the article that prizes independent exploration.

  5. 5 Extra Years (01:47)

    Designed to Move is a call-to-action to combat rising rates of physical inactivity, put out by a group of organizations spearheaded by Nike, American College of Sports Medicine, and the Council of Sport Science and Physical Education. Research and action toolkit available.

  6. For Inner-City Kids, Time Spent Outdoors Cultivates Confidence (02:18)

    But what about the many, many kids who live in urban environments with no easy access to nature? Organizations like Sierra Club have programs like Inner City Outings to get city kids out into the wild, like these third graders from San Diego's City Heights.

  7. Nature Deficit Disorder: KQED Quest (12:06)

    On the long side at 12 minutes and a little old, this segment from KQED Quest is nonetheless worth watching as a great overview on "nature deficit disorder," a term coined by author Richard Louv in 2006, and the "No Child Left Inside" movement that followed his book's publication.

  8. Sesame Street: Outdoors with Jason Mraz (02:58)

    Just to wrap it up with a bit of fun, this toe-tapping spoof of "I'm Yours" from indie musician Jason Mraz is not only an earworm, it gets my pre-schooler excited to go play outside. Thank you, Sesame Street!

More Resources for Getting Kids Outdoors

Step One: Back away from the computer. It's terribly hard to unplug, and we're all guilty of going down the rabbit-hole of mindless internet entertainment. The organizations below have gathered a wealth of resources to help give you ideas for getting kids out into nature. Just don't spend too much time looking at nature education resources online when the very best advice is really to just turn it off and get out there!

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The Dixie Diarist's picture
The Dixie Diarist
Teacher, Writer, and Artist

ANYBODY HEAR A BANJO PLAYING?

Everybody showed up except Jasper and Taboo and off we go on the annual eighth grade two-day rafting trip.

A hippy named Murphy was the guide of our raft, number 806. In the raft was Irving, Beauregard, Claude, Benny, and Dill. We had several miles of class one-to-three Ocoee River rapids ahead of us. Since Beauregard and Benny started bickering before we nudged our raft into the water, I honestly wondered what I would do if they would have fallen out of the raft in a few minutes and were being sucked under and they were holding their hands up out of the water for a responsible adult to reach down to save them.

Murphy, who was pretty much in charge of our lives, and had been the ultimate professional during entrances and escapes from angry sections of the Ocoee River called Flipper, Broken Nose, and Table Saw, asked me, because I was sitting in the back of the raft near him and I was their teacher, do those two up there constantly argue. They have really been going at it, Murphy observed. Accurately.

I told Murphy they constantly bicker. Yes, they do. All day. I told Murphy that those two also bickered at each other all day just this past Friday while we were on a field trip to Six Flags. I emphasized to Murphy the words, Six Flags. I emphasized some more words to Murphy: Can you believe it?

Murphy said, Dude, you must be a payyyy-tient man.

I allowed my awesome silence to communicate to our long-haired river guide of raft number 806 the response to his comprehensive observation.

The next day, on another river, the Nantahala, which means "Asperger's boys will bicker incessantly" in Cherokee, Irving, Dill, Beauregard, Earl, Benny, and I were in raft number 601. Of course there was an amount of bickering. It's what they do. It's what they enjoy. They're really good at it, so now, as their teacher, I enthusiastically encourage something they're good at.

A river and sun and cigarette-seasoned local fellow named Creed was our raft guide who said after about two minutes on the river...You dudes sure do squabble a lot.

I looked at Creed...with an expression of teacherly approval. Squabble. Bicker. Both work, but squabble's even better.

On the way back home the road show stopped in Murphy, North Carolina at a Chinese and American buffet restaurant. You could describe the buffet-style eating of over thirty eighth graders as frenzied, with a slurping and gnawing and hiccupping and chewing and licking and crunching quality to it. Then you've got the sounds Old Burrell makes while he enjoys his food. Principal Lurlene can put away some chow mien and fried chicken, too.

When you could tell the restaurant employees were finally ready to get rid of us and at least break even on the ocean of Coke and Sprite and Dr. Pepper refills and cat-head-sized rolls soaked in butter which were enormously popular with Huckleberry, a very Chinese waitress who was working our tables all of a sudden said something to me I couldn't decipher. Having a few manners, I politely asked her to repeat what she said...she did...and then I asked her politely to give it a try one more time. I was sitting at a table with Winx and Click and they finally lifted their heads from cramming Chinese and American food items into their sandwich holes to see what the international relations rumpus in Murphy, North Carolina was all about.

Here's what our determined Chinese waitress said to me: When you get to the cash register tell them you're a bus driver and you eat for free.

I said I'm not a bus driver. I'm a teacher. I drive a little school bus. I drive these kids around...in a little school bus.

She wagged a finger...You no bus driver?

I'm looking at her, inquisitively, amusedly, with quite a bit of the two buffets in my guts and she's looking at me with my two days of gnarly-looking beard and my day-two raft trip do-rag which has red and yellow flames on it and I've got on beat-up old cowboy boots and greasy blue jeans and a moldy adidas Originals track jacket which looks like it emits a fragrance, and it does, and a social studies-type thought finally hit me: my honky butt just got profiled.

...

Todd's memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave," will be published this fall by Stairway Press.

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