If you're familiar with Last Child in the Woods and the No Child Left Inside coalition, you've heard about the effects of nature-deficit disorder on children, including obesity, attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety. But have you ever thought about the effect the current nature-deprived generation will have on saving the planet?
In the introduction to The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids, one paragraph caught my eye:
In an article titled "Learning to Love the Natural World Enough to Protect It," Louise Chawla finds two significant factors common to adults who have chosen to work in defense of the environment: having positive outdoor experiences as a child, and being taken outdoors by a parent or caregiver.If the next generation has no connection to the natural world, what desire will they have to care for and conserve it?
A love for the natural world is certainly a desire I have for my own budding greenies, and The Green Hour is the perfect handbook to help me achieve that goal. As the director of the National Wildlife Federation's Green Hour website, author Todd Christopher encourages readers to set aside one hour a day "for play and discover in the natural world...A green hour is simply a time for families to unplug, unwind, and recharge as they reconnect to the natural world - and to each other. It is an opportunity for parents to strengthen family bonds as they guide the natural experiences that foster happier, healthier, smarter children."
Okay, Mr. Christopher, I'm all for happier, healthier, smarter children...but what about the mosquitos?
Before launching into suggestions for what you can do outside, The Green Hour includes a chapter on how to avoid or overcome "the potential hazards and discomforts of the great outdoors" - from poison ivy to bees to mosquitos to heat. For those of us that already spend a lot of time outdoors, this chapter might feel redundant (of course, you shouldn't swat at bees...of course, one of the first plants your kids should be able to identify is poison ivy...), but since a lot of parents really do make excuses about mosquitos and a lot of kids really are afraid of bees, I thought this was a creative and interesting chapter.
We're outdoors...Now what do we do?
Don't worry. The Green Hour doesn't send you outside and then leave you hanging. It's jam-packed full of outdoor activities for everyone from the beginner to the more advanced nature explorer. And although some of the ideas might seem like common sense (look for bugs), Christopher puts a fresh spin on it (make a bug vacuum).
A few ideas I dog-eared:
- Letterboxing (or the modern version, geocaching) - Part hike, part treasure hunt.
- Cricket thermometers - By counting the number of times a cricket chirps in fourteen seconds, you can estimate the current temperature.
- Watch a meteor shower - There are several big ones at regular times of the year.
Even though I'm raising city kids, I've always tried to expose them to lots of nature and encouraged them to play outside, but I've never done it with a real sense of commitment, setting aside a specific time in our day as outside play time. And even when we are outside, we're usually walking home from school or playing at the playground, not exploring nature.
So I'm committing to try a green hour with my kids several times a week (I'm not sure we can do a whole hour ever day). During our "daily dose of nature," we'll actually get out in nature - not just swing and slide and climb at the playground, but get down and dirty looking for bugs, picking wildflowers, identifying leaves, and looking for stars. And to prove my commitment, I'll post about my family's green hour once a month either here or over at my personal blog.
Will you join me?
To help you get started on your own green hour, Shambhala Publications is generously offering two copies of this book to two readers of The Green Phone Booth. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, May 4th. I'll randomly select the winners and announce the results next Wednesday.
Disclaimer: Shambhala sent me a copy of this book to be able to write this review but did not compensate me in any other way. I was not under any obligations to write a positive review, and all of the opinions contained in this post are my own.