Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kids, Outdoors, and Unstructured Activity

Two essays recently had me thinking again of the power of nature and the outdoors for kids.  First is Michael Chabon's recent essay in the New York Review of Books.  In it he describes his suburban childhood in the late sixties and seventies of exploring the woods behind his house and having lots of time for playing with friends without the supervision of parents or other adults. 

The second is Nicholas Kristof in the NyTimes today with an essay about his hiking trip with his 11 year old daughter. His family goes on yearly backpacking trips and he talks about the power of the outdoors on his kids.

Just two childhood remembrances these essays brought up.  Most of my playtime growing up after a certain age, 9 or ten maybe, was leaving the house in the morning on a weekend or summer day and coming back at dinner time.  Most of that time was spent playing pick up games of baseball, basketball, and football.  I went up until high school when organized sports took over.  I think my friends and I enjoyed our games much more than the organized ones for the most part and we were able to solve our problems without intervention usually.  Or when we couldn't, the kid who owned the ball or bat or other necessary equipment just picked it up and went home.  This seems to be lost through the fault of no one but still makes me sad.

The other is starting in high school going on canoeing trips with my dad and other teens from the church in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario every August.  It was an incredibly powerful experience for a teenager and has influenced me my entire life.

How do we make this happen in school more often, or at least my school?  More on that soon.

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