Saturday, January 29, 2011

Play Again... the movie

I had the good fortune of getting to see this documentary last week. Of course it's utterly dismaying... kids these days spend 5- 15 hours per day plugged into a screen. They spend 90 percent of their time indoors. This film took 6 of these kids on a week long wilderness adventure. I'm not very good at writing movie reviews... if you'd like to read more about it Bernadette wrote a wonderful review at Slow Family Living.

Of course I already feel very strongly that kids should have lots and lots of unstructured time, preferably out of doors. Watching this film has brought it even more to the forefront of my mind, most especially my feeling that kids should grow up enjoying nature and feeling connected to nature. I see some of the best kind of tinkering happening when I take my kids down to the creek and all this wonderful work and play happens completely spontaneously and organically... working together to build a bridge or a dam, climbing trees, throwing rocks (lots and lots of rocks, please don't throw them at each other kids, that's the only deal breaker...)... I just feel that they are learning so much, that kind of learning that's hard to quantify, but includes cooperation and gauging distance and being aware of what your body is capable of... to name only a few. I mean, not like I have to tell you... I'm sure you already know. But obviously there's far too many people in charge who would rather we spend our afternoons running through flashcards and playing educational computer games, perhaps, for a treat.

Anyway, then I saw this (via the inspiring Jennifer Kable of Let the Children Play):

My friend had mentioned the idea of the kinderwald (forest school) to me once a long time ago. I loved the idea then, and now I'm just itching to start one. It just seems like an early experience of enjoying the natural world in all weather is just a really great set up for having a pretty deep connection with nature later in life. And if we're supposed to be raising our kids to be stewards of the earth and all that... seems like it would be a good idea. I know myself, although I happily and luckily spent lots and lots of time outdoors (and with SO much freedom, I feel very fortunate to say) I still have a feeling when it's grim and drizzly outside (or flat out chilly and pouring down rain)... just kind of a baseline feeling of claustrophobia and a little depression, like we're all just stuck inside and there's nothing to do. It would be neat to not feel like that... to just dress for chilly and damp ("There is not bad weather, just bad clothes") and go out and enjoy the world regardless of what's falling down from the sky or what's blowing in from the north.

Anyway, it's just an idea, but the yen, the yen is strong. And I already have our name and motto: Austin Kinderwald: Go Outside and Play. And it's not like we just have to sit outside in the pouring rain for days on end if that's the weather... we'll have a shelter, and we can string up tarps and make tents and go on field trips (and also definitely play with worms and splash in puddles and dig in the mud). Austin's weather is really so mild (except perhaps in summer, but then we can just go sit in Barton Springs all day) that it does seem like a very do-able idea.
I'll just keep this one on at a simmer. And let me know if you've got a small, beautiful piece of land with a creek flowing through it and lots of nice trees to donate... let's talk.

Oh and of course, one more thing that Play Again made me have to confront about myself is my own addiction to screens (not TV, but who among us is not addicted to the internet in this day and age? It's such very tasty and immediate stuff) and what I model for my children. Gots to rein it in a little, lest this cautionary tale become my reality:


Anna said...

Since Daniel is about to jump off into kindergarten, I was appalled to learn that in public school they get only like 20 min of recess a day! How can this be! Who do we talk to in order to change it!

minnie said...

we recently created (and ended after one semester ) a forest preschool. it was a great learning experience and the kids loved it. they played outside all day, ate organic home cooked meals, took off their clothes and jumped in the stream and got dirty and had fun. it ended up being a ton of work for the parents and complicated to administer and we couldnt keep enrollment with kids of a variety of ages. it was def worth doing and i think would work better with older kids.

Kami said...

That sounds fantastic, Minnie! I just returned from a week-long tinkering school immersion workshop and there was another participant who had an all-outdoors day camp, to my amazement. It sounds and looks so cool. Maybe I'll start one up and he can mentor me and all your kids can go there, Anna :)

Traci said...

This is my first time reading your blog. I wanted to thank you for sharing these videos. I have worked in childcare for the last 5 years and just finished my student teaching to become an elementary teacher. I have found that the amount of outdoor time kids get really varies by region. In Washington State childcare regulations require children to get 1 hour of outdoor time per day, rain or shine. There, I was able to take kids on puddle stomping walks in the rain and allow them to play with the worms and go on walks by creeks. Every kid kept rain boots in their cubby for rainy days. However, I have since moved to Pennsylvania and have found the attitude towards outside time quite different. People here still think incorrectly that you can catch a cold or get sick from cold or wet weather. They also don't understand that you simply need to dress for the weather! During my student teaching I was appalled at the number of indoor recesses my students had. Many times due to too much wind. My students had more indoor recess in the 4 months that I was there than I had in my entire school career in rainy Washington. I think that in order to get our kids back to nature, we really need to re-educate the public.
p.s. I would love to have a forest preschool, but regulations in most US states would make it impossible.

Kami said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Traci. Gosh that makes me frustrated. My son's school seems to be the same way... they stay inside if its' the least bit cold. I'm inspired because I just went to a workshop and one of the other participants runs this day camp: It's an all outdoor day camp in the Los Angeles area. So I have him as a resource if I try to move forward on that project. Maybe having it a day camp is what makes it possible. I am so glad those kids are having that experience... hope there can be lots more places like that one!