During my childhood years we didn’t have all the current day electronic media entertainment devices vying for our attention. We relied on time spent outdoors, fishing, camping, hiking, building forts, football, soccer, digging holes, catching critters, building fires, swimming in the river, riding the tires off our bikes etc. In essence, the outdoors was our baby sitter. Flash forward 40 years and kids have a host of devices and “games” seeking their attention, most requiring little more movement than moving your fingers. Although, it may be easier to allow your kids to spend countless hours with their electronics, to what degree are they negatively effected? How do they relate and react to being outside? Here’s a test. For an entire weekend, take away the devices and force them to go outside… and be entertained. Do they soon whine and cry because they’re bored, proclaiming there’s nothing to do? Hmmmm.
Thankfully, most kids respond favorably to positive outdoor experiences, especially ones that instill confidence or a sense of accomplishment. Although schools are primarily charged with educating our kids, it’s refreshing to encounter ones that also offer outdoor programs. Recently, we switched our two youngest to The Hawbridge School. During an open house visit we were encouraged by their teaching record, faculty, staff, learning philosophies as well as their solid outdoor programs, which included hiking, backpacking, cycling, paddling, eco-outings and outdoor skills. I for one would have been quite a bit more excited about going to school, knowing one or more of these activities were part of the day.
One recent middle school group event was an overnight canoe and camp trip along the Haw River. Twenty adventurous kids signed up, accompanied by two school program personnel and five volunteer chaperones. After a brief paddling technique refresher, the group piled into twelve Mad River Adventure 14 canoes and setoff up river to the campsite. For dinner we cooked hobo meals over hot coals, followed by what else, smores.
The following day we paddled further up river, stopping to engage in a few river games and a chance to swim. At times it sounded like wild, happy kids on Christmas morning… a strong indication they were having fun and learning to enjoy being outdoors.