Summer 2017: On Reynolds Road, Toledo, OH I drove past a bill board from the US Forest Service and Ad Council with the title “Every Neighborhood has a Naturehood” The photo on the board shows a city skyline in the background with a river, bridge, trees and adult and child hiking in the foreground.
From their website: “More than 80 percent of Americans live in cities, but fortunately, families don’t have to leave the city to take their kids on an adventure to the forest. According to research done by Euro RSCG, 88 percent of children today say they like being in nature, and 79 percent wish they could spend more time there. Additionally, children who play outside have lower stress levels and more active imaginations, become fitter and leaner, develop stronger immune systems and are more likely to become environmentally conscious in the future.”
My colleagues have written a nice collection of blog posts like Get Unplugged. Get into Nature. and Can Green Places Make a Difference in our Health?
My Facebook post on June 13, 2017: My reminder for the day: even the weeds serve an important role and (most) often it’s important to look past the mess to the blessings. This picture has the hidden blessing …. at this time of year when work is really busy, it’s really hot outside and lots of things in my life need “weeded” I pulled into one of our community sites and thought about how overgrown and ugly the landscaped island looked. When I parked I saw a bright yellow finch and then his less bright counterpart. In the middle of the city, in the middle of the parking lot … 2 finches enjoying the thistle. And then I found a lucky penny in the lot!
How do we best promote this connection to nature with the youth in Toledo? Fortunately, we have nice city parks and Metroparks as well as summer youth programs with community gardens and youth activities. For me, it’s important to remind the youth of our connection with nature, whether the program topic is gardening, eating healthy or overall health and wellness. It might be a small message but I try to use activities and reminders to get outside. I realize that a squirrel or grasshopper might not seem as exciting as the elephants or polar bears at the zoo but I’d like the kiddos to be aware of their natural surroundings and appreciate the antics of the wildlife around them.
A few resources that have influenced my youth summer programs:
- Four, sea-life, calm down activities by an occupational therapist in Australia. My favorite (and the kids’ favorite) is the Puffer Fish Puff.
- An old poem (I can’t find a current copy to link) “Be Like the Animals” by Mabel Watts. It was published by the American Heart Association Scholastic Program and it names a lot of different animals and their movements. We have the students act out the movements such as “dance like a poodle, or crawl like a crab …” This would possibly be a good time to introduce youth to yoga moves that have names and actions that reflect animals and nature.
- Dr. Hazel Harrison does a nice job of helping youth (and adults) understand the brain and what it means to “flip our lid”
- The book, Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer.
- Although this is called an “anger catcher” it could be useful for lots of “big” emotions
- Dr. Dan Siegel Wheel of Awareness
- More specific to connecting with nature, my colleagues and I designed a one page handout of “wildlife” that might be seen in urban areas of Northwest Ohio as a scavenger hunt for the youth we work with. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on that handout.