Tag Archives: Take A Child Outside Week

GetOut! Your Friday Nudge for Weekend Adventure

OK, so perhaps summer is overstaying its welcome. It’s still dry out, which means you have at least one more weekend to get out and savor the warm weather. Remember, in another couple months, you’ll be pining for its return.

National Public Lands Day, Saturday, nationwide. Saturday is National Public Lands Day, “the largest single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands.” Related events are planned at five North Carolina State Parks (Crowders Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Lake Norman, Grandfather Mountain, Morrow Mountain); you can find specifics here. You can find additional events in the state by going to the National Environmental Education Foundation web site and clicking here. read more

Next week, Take a Child Outside

In 2005, author Richard Louv came out with his groundbreaking “Last Child in the Woods,” an account of how our kids have gone from being weaned in the wild to garrisoned in the great room in less than a generation.

Within a year, Liz Baird, director of school programs for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, had launched Take A Child Outside Week, an effort to ensure that for at least one week a year, kids had ample opportunity to play outdoors. By 2010, her effort had been embraced by more than 400 partners — various agencies with a stake in kids, the outdoors or both — in all 50 states and four foreign countries.

At the time, Baird said: “I recently compared it to a ball rolling down hill. We just gave it a push and it continues to spin faster and faster. I now have people seeking me out to become a partner.”

Today, Take A Child Outside Week, which begins on Sunday, Sept. 24, and runs through Sept. 30, continues to flourish. Hundreds of opportunities to get your kids outdoors are planned in North Carolina alone. For instance, in North Carolina’s State Parks alone, you’ll find:

  • Painting the Mountain, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2 p.m., Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson: Using tempera paints and brushes, kids spend an hour painting scenes from atop Mount Jefferson. All supplies are free.
  • Canoe Excursion, Monday, Sept. 25, 9 a.m., Lake James State Park, Nebo: Paddle the Paddy’s Creek Area with a ranger.
  • Hike Jude’s Gap Historic Trail, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 10 a.m., Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock: two-mile hike that’s part of the Carolina Land Conservancy’s hiking badge program.
  • Fishing Occoneechee, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m., Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough: Learn to bait a hook and cast; all equipment provided.
  • Natural Side of Fort Macon, Thursday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m., Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach: Leisurely hike exploring beach and trail at the fort.
  • Mammals of Stone Mountain, Friday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap: Join a ranger to learn about the animals that call Stone Mountain home.
  • Sunset Hike, Saturday, Sept. 30, 6:45 p.m., Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap: A mile and a half hike topped by sunset atop Stone Mountain.
  • read more

    This weekend: A tri, a TACO, a wildlife education

    The 1,500-meter swim is long for a sprint tri, but the tide is at your back the entire distance.

    Cross “sprint triathlon” off your 2014 list in Wilmington, Take a Child Outside at a state park, celebrate hunting and fishing with the family in the mountains: it’s another diverse weekend outdoors in North Carolina.


    A triathlon isn’t something you’d ordinarily do on a lark, certainly not an Olympic length (0.9-mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run) or longer. A sprint tri, on the other hand … .

    Face it, as we near the end of the year do you find yourself without a physical achievement on your 2014 list? And are you aware that the opportunities for such are quickly dwindling? Redemption could be yours this Saturday at the Wilmington YMCA Sprint Triathlon at the Blockade Runner in Wrightsville Beach. A 12-mile bike ride (doable), a 5K run (likely doable), a 1,500-meter swim (you can make it — may the tide be with you!), all points to a salvaged 2014.

    Logistics: Saturday, Sept. 27, 7 a.m., Blockade Runner, Wrightsville Beach.  $70 if you sign up before Saturday, here.

    Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 80.


    It’s Take A Child Outside Week, and one of the best places you can take a child outside is a North Carolina State Park. In observance of this annual event, many state parks are holding TACO events this weekend. Saturday at Morrow Mountain State Park, for instance, there’s a Kids in Parks Track Trail Hike. The focus on this roughly half mile hike that lasts an hour is on checking out nature.

    Logistics: Take A Child Outside Week runs through Sept. 30. You can find out more about the event at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences TACO website, you can learn more about the Morrow Mountain hike Saturday and other events at North Carolina’s State Parks, here.

    Saturday forecast: Should be a nice weekend throughout most of the state.


    Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will  celebrate the annual event its Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education off US 276 north of Brevard.

    A variety of family-oriented events are planned, including hands-on fishing, outdoor cooking, archery and pellet rifle range events. While you’re there, you can also visit the fish hatchery, where three types of trout are raised for release in local streams. And, you can take a three-mile hike up to John Rock.

    Logistics: Saturday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. More details and directions here, more information on National Hunting and Fishing Day, here.

    Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 73.

    * * *

    Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.


    Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

    Coastal Guide
    Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

    Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
    Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.

    NCCoast.com read more

    This week: Take A Child Outside

    Before kids come out to a program at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ wildlife learning center, Jan Weems asks them to draw a picture of what they think they’ll see.

    “They draw pictures of bears and lions and all these really big animals,” says Weems, the center’s senior manager of early childhood programs. At the end of the program, when she asks them to draw a picture of what they actually did see at this 45-acre natural oasis in the heart of Raleigh, she gets sketches of tadpoles, frogs, crickets, ladybugs … .
    “The reality is it’s really much more fun to get close to a lady bug,” says Weems, who has been in the business of exposing kids to the outdoors for 30 years.
    The reality is also that today more than ever, too many kids like the ones viewing Prairie Ridge as a wild jungle have only a vague notion of what’s going on outside their living room windows.
    That’s why in 2006, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Director of Education Liz Baird deemed it necessary to create Take A Child Outside Week, seven days at the end of September dedicated to introducing our increasingly insulated youth to the great outdoors. Take A Child Outside Week 2013 begins Tuesday and runs through Monday, Sept. 30. At least 82 Take A Child Outside-related programs are scheduled throughout the state. (To find an event close to you, check our calendar, here.)
    “The average child spends seven hours a day in front of a screen,” says Baird, “with no logged time outdoors. Obviously, we still need to remind parents to get their children outside.”
    Take a Child Outside Week was spurred by Richard Louv’s 2005 bestseller, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” an account of how, in less than a generation, our kids have gone from being weaned in the wild to garrisoned in the great room.
    To anyone who came of age pre-1980, the notion of having to be reminded to go outside and play would have seemed crazy; outside — in a local forest, along a nearby creek, in a neighborhood park — was where kids went to escape. But as Louv notes, a proliferation of electronic options and increasingly protective parents have conspired to keep our kids inside.
    Some disturbing numbers:

    • According to at least three studies conducted between 2001 and 2005, children spent half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years earlier. A 2012 study by the Outdoor Foundation found that the trend has continued, with youth participation since 2006 dropping across the board, with the greatest decline among 6- to 12-year-old girls.
    • A Kaiser Foundation Family study found that kids 8 to 18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to “entertainment media” in a typical day.
    • In a typical week, according to a 2008 Children & Nature Network report, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.
    • Time outside is important, because:
    • At least two studies, in 2005 and in 2007, found that children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.
    • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 60 minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)
    • Kids exposed to the outdoors via “wild nature activities” before the age of 11 grow to be adults more concerned about the environment.

    Weems has borne witness to the trend of children separating from the natural world during her 30 years on the job
    “There’s a growing gap between child and parent,” she says. “I think sometimes parents forget the joys of just being outside. Slowly, we have to let them explore their world.”
    Weems and Prairie Ridge hope to narrow that gap with their new Nature Playspace, which will be unveiled Saturday, Sept. 28.
    Nature Playspace is a one-acre playground with a “water feature, a groundhog tunnel big enough for me to crawl through, stumps to balance on and logs to pick up and look under.”
    “In a world of ‘don’t touch,’ we want to send a message of please touch,” says Weems. “Please look underneath that rock, you are welcome to move that log.”
    The area is designed as a safe place for kids to observe the wild, says Weems. “We’ve removed some of the barriers that parents often are concerned with. We’ve removed the poison ivy, the pokeberry. It’s a little less intimidating.”
    That said, Weems acknowledges that one of the benefits of exploring the true wild is that it teaches kids to evaluate risk, to be aware that everything may not be safe and that you need to make those determinations on your own. The Nature Playspace is a first step in letting parents give their kids some space in the outdoors.)
    Many of the Take A Child Outside Week events scheduled statewide are likewise geared toward letting parent and child explored together. At Shelley Lake in Raleigh on Tuesday, for instance, there’s a “Family Sunset Walk” intended to expose the natural world after dark. “Festival in Motion” on Saturday at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Wetland Center includes a range of kid-friendly activities geared toward exposing families to a wetlands. And Saturday’s “Talking Turkey” program lets kids explore the unfamiliar outdoor world through the more familiar world of crafts.
    TACO founder Baird says the opportunities to take a child outside over the next week offer an opportunity that no kid should miss out on.
    “We need to let kids take advantage of childhood while it lasts,” she says. “Childhood is not something to be rushed through.
    “Explore. Play. Be outside.”

    * * *

    Find an event

    Looking for a scheduled outdoor program you and your kid can enjoy during Take A Child Outside Week? Great Outdoor Provision Co. has assembled the most comprehensive list of events in the state, 82 events in all, broken down by the following geographic areas: Charlotte, Greenville-Wilmington, Triad, Triangle. The events begin today and run through Monday. You can find the events here.

    Make your own event

    The Take A Child Outside folks offer tips on making your own outdoor adventure. Click on the link for direction.

    Getting Started: Simple activities for all ages and seasons

    Animal Signs and Observations read more

    Kick ’em out! (Your kids, that is)

    The following GGNC story appeared in the November 23 editions of The News & Observer in Raleigh and the Charlotte Observer. It’s rerun here, with links. For additional information about getting kids outside, visit yesterday’s post.

    The virtues of kids being outdoors have been touted in a number of studies. But when it comes down to it, the proof is in the playing.

    Mounting evidence shows our kids spend too much time hypnotized by the glow of electronic devices – an average of 6.5 hours a day, according to a recent University of Michigan study. Moreover, a study of 803 moms in one professional journal found 70 percent said they had played outside daily as kids, but only 31 percent of their own kids play outside that often.

    The resulting damage is widespread, say health officials. It starts with an epidemic that now finds nearly 20 percent of U.S. youth obese and expands to everything from a lack of sunshine-provided Vitamin D to less creative stimulation.

    The fretting grows. But how to get the kids off gizmos and out the door? Here’s how a park, a parent and a third-grade teacher managed.

    A playground goes wild

    This spring, the Mecklenburg County Park and Rec system opened its first nature play area at the Reedy Creek Nature Center. The Nature Explorer Zone is based on the Natural Learning Initiative movement, pioneered by N.C. State University professor of landscape architecture Robin Moore. It eschews traditional playground gear for simpler elements that encourage creative play.

    “With standard manufactured playground equipment,” says Michael Kirschman, Mecklenburg’s director of Nature Preserves and Natural Resources, “kids play on it for 10 minutes, they master it, they get bored and move on. In terms of creative play, it’s not doing the job.”

    The Nature Explorer Zone includes only one “built” feature, a giant birdhouse that kids can climb in and out of.

    Kirschman says kids immediately are drawn to the birdhouse, but after a few minutes gravitate to more subtle features – tree stumps (for jumping on), bamboo poles (for building forts), vines for climbing on, a log balance beam – where their imaginations take over.

    “It’s been really popular,” Reedy Creek manager Jose Chavez says of the zone. Since it opened, park visitation has gone up 30 percent.

    “In my 20 years,” says Kirschman, “it’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in parks.”

    A parent recalls the good old days

    Spence March is typical of many modern parents: He wants his children to have the same outdoor adventures he had growing up in the 1960s and ’70s in a rural suburb outside Philadelphia.

    But when his family moved to a new subdivision in Apex last year, he and his wife were reluctant to let their 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son experience that same sense of adventure.

    It wasn’t so much the purported “stranger danger” often cited by many parents as the reason they don’t want their kids out of eyesight. (Duke University’s 2005 Child Well-Being Index found that “violent victimization of children” had dropped by more than 38 percent since 1975).

    It was the traffic.

    “Mainly, we just didn’t feel that the streets were safe,” says March, 47. “At this age, kids aren’t that great at looking both ways.”

    So March turned their backyard into an outdoor playland, including a Frisbee target and tire swing.

    And the family visits local parks and takes regular bike rides on the American Tobacco Trail, a nearly completed 22-mile rails-to-trails project in Wake, Chatham and Durham counties where the kids can ride free of traffic.

    “They love it,” says March. “They love the freedom.”

    Play = intellectual growth read more