Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Laura Bush: Instill Love of Nature in Children

Article written by Laura Bush, courtesy of the San Antonio Express-News

Former first lady Laura Bush laments that today’s children are not growing up in the out-of-doors as she did; she is working to reverse that trend.

Some of my earliest memories are of the Texas outdoors.

In Midland, my first playgrounds were vacant lots covered with mesquite trees. In the summers, I would travel west, to visit my grandparents on the outskirts of El Paso, gazing out upon the Rio Grande River and the Franklin Mountains, surrounded by the searing desert light and heat, or take family trips to swim at Balmorhea or to the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston.

But increasingly today, the Texas outdoors is being lost to our children. Nature and the natural world are like a foreign language to many of today's kids, in Texas and around the nation. An elementary school child now spends less time outdoors than any generation in human history — 50 percent less time than kids did just 20 years ago. Time outside has been replaced by time indoors, and roughly six hours of each day is devoted to various forms of electronic media, such as televisions, computers or video game consoles. In fact, kids today are six times more likely to play a video game than to ride a bike.

Along with this vastly diminished time outdoors, researchers have noticed other serious changes in the lives and minds of our children. In some areas, academic achievement is stagnating or falling, while increasing numbers of children are less able to engage in vigorous or cooperative play, and learning challenges such as Attention Deficit Disorder are rising.

Yet we know that time spent in nature decreases stress and anxiety and improves focus for adults as well as children. In his book, “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv tells the story of a boy who was described as “hyperactive” and had been kicked out of school. His parents had noticed that when this boy was outside, nature engaged and soothed him. They made a special effort to take their son outdoors to beaches, forests, and rivers. This story is from 1907, and that boy who loved nature grew up to be one of the greatest nature photographers of all time, Ansel Adams. How can we nurture the next Ansel Adams, or any child whose potential is waiting to be tapped by the wonders of the outdoors?

Unstructured, natural play helps stimulate creativity and improves problem solving. The more time spent outside, the better the achievement levels inside our state's schools and classrooms. But this issue goes beyond achievement. We all, parents, educators, community leaders, and every Texas citizen, need to come together to find new ways to engage children with the natural environment. Our state's future depends upon it. If we do not instill a love of the natural world and its care in our children, who will care for Texas in the years to come?

That is one of the reasons I helped start Taking Care of Texas, a 2-year-old nonprofit focused on can-do conservation and collaborative conservation efforts. Today, at a summit on children and nature, Taking Care of Texas will help launch the statewide Natural Resource and Environmental Literacy Plan. Developed by more than 30 organizations, including Taking Care of Texas, this plan is designed to share the natural beauties of our state with every Texas child. Through this effort and others, we can give our children and grandchildren the chance to play in the outdoors as many of us once did.

But we can do more. Ninety-four percent of all land in Texas is privately owned. So, for us as Texans, conservation for future generations truly begins at home. If we make it a priority to conserve our own property and then to introduce the natural wonders of our state to our children, love for our land becomes a way of life. And by our example, we teach our children how to be careful stewards of Texas.

In their own gardens, my mother and my grandmother taught me the importance of the native plants of Texas. It's a tradition I've worked to continue. George and I are restoring the native prairie on our ranch near Crawford. We began by planting native Texas seed at the edge of an old cattle watering hole. Today Prairie Chapel Ranch has 100 acres of native prairie grassland.

At a 15-acre public park site at the soon to open George W. Bush Center on the grounds of Southern Methodist University, we have planted native Texas trees and wildflowers and a new blend of native grass, developed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a Taking Care of Texas partner.
In the middle of Dallas, the Bush Center's revitalized grounds will attract butterflies, and a red-tailed hawk has already made its home in the parkland.

As a soon-to-be grandmother, I want my grandchildren to enjoy the natural beauty of Texas. And that is my hope for every Texas child: that he or she comes to know the joys of the natural world and the simple pleasures of playing outside.
On behalf of future generations, I ask you to help continue this tradition and to take care of the best of Texas: our people and our land.

Laura W. Bush is former first lady of the United States and Texas.

Read more:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kids' Sports Leagues - Spring Registrations

Spring is just around the corner and local sports leagues are filling their rosters early. Here's a list of a few programs accepting registrations now.
Chatham Soccer League Participants
Chatham County Parks and Recreation has opened registration for T-ball, softball, track and more; they now offer convenient online registration and payment options.

North Chatham Youth Lacrosse is also gearing up. They offer need-based scholarships and loaner sticks - very cool and socially responsible.

Chatham Soccer League offers multiple divisions for both travel and recreational leagues.

Finally, East Chatham Baseball is preparing for their upcoming season.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Promoting Cycling & Walking Presentation at UNC

Ever wished that your home town could be as bike friendly as the great  European cities? If so, this free lecture might be just up your alley.

more great photos on this theme can be found here
Promoting Cycling and Walking for Sustainable and Healthy Cities: Lessons from Europe and North America by John Pucher

The presentation will cover:

What policies and programs are needed to make cycling and walking safe and convenient?

How do Dutch, Danish and German cities get virtually everyone (incl. women, children and seniors) on bikes for a wide range of trip purposes?

What can communities in North Carolina do to increase walking and cycling while also making them safer and more convenient for everyday travel to work, school, and shopping?

John Pucher's research focuses on walking and bicycling, with international comparative analysis that includes Australia, Canada, the USA, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and several other European countries. The main objective of his research is to determine what American, Canadian, and Australian cities could learn from each other and from European cities to improve the safety, convenience, and feasibility of these non-motorized modes.  

The presentation will be held on Wednesday February 6 from 12:30-1:30 at the New East building room 211 on UNC's campus.  More info here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pittsboro Featured in DiscGolfer Magazine

Though Pittsboro's Rock Ridge Disc Golf Course is still very much under construction, it is nevertheless creating a buzz in the disc golf community. A recent article in the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Magazine illustrates how Pittsboro's course is pioneering cutting edge disc golf design techniques being developed by John Houck. Here's a pdf link in to the article.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pittsboro Parks Wordle

Click image to expand to full size . . .

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Snow Skiing in NC

Once again local Realtor Julie Roland has written a great recreation blog post, this time on Skiing in NC.  We're just 3 hours away from the powder, and as her post points out there's plenty on offer for a family vacation with ski slopes, snow tubes and zip-lines available for kids 5 years and up.  Be sure to check out her fun and informative post.

Image source: Ski the High Country

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Boring Playgrounds Linked to Sedentary Kids

By Kerry Grens
NEW YORK | Wed Jan 4, 2012 9:22am EST
(Reuters Health) - Potential playground hazards, a focus on classroom learning, and boring play equipment have children spending too little time being physically active at daycare, according to a survey of staff members at child care centers in Ohio.

"Physical activity is essential for kids in this age group for preventing obesity and for development," said lead study author Dr. Kristen Copeland, a professor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Yet, according to the responses from the daycare staff, parents seem to value more traditional, classroom-based activities.

The researchers surveyed 49 child care providers from Cincinnati about potential barriers to kids' physical activity.

The children are "still learning how to skip, how to play with balls, how to share and take turns. But the teachers were saying they were pressured by the parents and somewhat by state early learning standards to emphasize classroom learning," Copeland told Reuters Health.

More than half of kids aged three to five years in the United States go to daycare centers, preschools or nursery schools, her team writes in the journal Pediatrics.

Although the teachers agreed that moving around is important, safety concerns were also a big barrier to kids' time spent running around and climbing.

Some of the teachers said that parents have asked for their kids to sit out of any vigorous activity to avoid getting hurt on the playground.

In cases when outdoor equipment had been updated to meet safety standards, the gear became boring and kids either tired of playing on it or they used it dangerously to make it more stimulating, the providers reported.
Daycare facilities couldn't always afford sufficiently challenging equipment, they said.

"Young children learn by moving," said Russell Pate, a professor at the University of South Carolina who was not involved in this study. "I am concerned that preschools and child care centers are placing a very heavy focus on the development of pre-academic skills."

This research "adds in a significant way to a growing body of information that indicates that the characteristics of preschools influence the physical activity levels of young children," Pate told Reuters Health.

Pate has shown in earlier work that children spend a very small portion of their time in daycare moving around vigorously.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommend that preschoolers should be allowed an hour and a half to two hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

He said there are ways to encourage kids to exercise.

Teachers can incorporate movement into classroom activities, and daycare centers can stock up on mobile equipment, such as tricycles and balls, which entice kids to move.

Copeland added that parents should make sure their children dress appropriately to play outside -- no flip flops and warm clothes.

"My advice for concerned parents would be to ask daily, 'did my child go outside today? And do they go outside daily except in the most extreme weather?'"
SOURCE: Pediatrics, January 4, 2012.


The Upside for Pittsboro? 

Pittsboro's Robyn's Nest Creative Learning Center, in conjunction with Chatham Partnership for Children, is working with the Natural Learning Initiative, a premier playground design group at NCSU, to have a cutting edge natural playground designed for their facility.  Here's a link to the planned playground:  When built, this should promise to be a NOT-BORING playground in a pre-school setting.  

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