As a somewhat new parent, I have experienced the transformation of myself from a cinephile homebody to a rampant outdoorswoman, constantly pushing my toddlers outside for a bit of fresh air. Because, let's face it, that's what we did as kids: jump on our bikes and ride around the neighborhood with friends until the street lights came on. Exhausted until the sun came up, we would do it again until the school bells rang. And, believe me, we got our share of fresh air and exercise.
But that was before cell phones, before Instagram. Back during the golden age of dial up. When it took so long to get online that it was hardly worth it. Forget it, I would think, and head outside. As technology continues to find its place in our daily lives, and especially the lives of our children, many seek a way to provide balance with the new paradigms in which we live.
Knowing inherently the benefits of the great outdoors for children, many organizations throughout the country have put pen to paper to prove these with facts and figures. Many have even added personal testimony, and have used this to develop programs that are getting kids outside, interacting with nature in greater numbers.
And this is no struggle in our fair, nature-loving city. Grand Rapids has recently been named one in a seven-city cohort of Cities Connecting Children to Nature(CCCN) by the Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit designed to reconnect children to, you guessed it, nature. Receiving technical assistance funding to develop a strategic plan for children spending more time outside, the GR Parks & Recreation Department and Our Community's Children, along with the mayor and Grand Rapids Public Schools, are doubling down on efforts like parks, outdoor learning labs and playgrounds. With children at the center of their efforts, the city of GR aims to be at the cutting edge of reuniting children with the great outdoors.
In April 2016, students from kindergarten through 12th grade discussed their desires for parks in the city at KidsSpeak, which brings together local children to focus on a particular issue.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_HGUtIYR7U&list=PLsneLTbX4tnj7xuEznBgAgNpiH80iYpoA – Full Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxrzEUXGFq8 – Gabrielle, 11t-grade
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNxXZJmXEZ8 – Abby, 12thgrade
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWKIt2XY4tk - Dawn, 4thgrade
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