- Being in the Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Helping your Child Walk or Bike to School
- Cycling Success Stories Mainly About Women
- Introducing the Durable Human Manifesto
- Meet the DC Cast of Listen To Your Mother
- Replant Native Trees that Turbocharge Nature
- A Prospective Author’s Perspective 2013
- How Free Content Can Boost Book Sales
- Tips for Effective Email Marketing
- Give Some Guidance with that Gadget
Connect With Me on Twitter
Take it from Wolftrap Elementary in Vienna, Virginia, which issued a “BikeWalk Challenge” to see how many families would give their kids a chance to walk and roll.
Jeff Anderson, bike aficionado and Wolftrap parent, turned pied piper on wheels by leading a “bike bus” through the neighborhoods.
Besides being fun, walking and biking boost mental and physical fitness, self-esteem and self-reliance, as Jeff explains in a YouTube video.
Jeff’s efforts paid off. “We had over 230 kids walk and over 50 bike today….which we figured out was more than 50% of the school enrollment,” he is happy to report. Car drop-offs over the week were cut nearly in half.
Of course, kids need to be safe when they bike and walk. A federal program called “Safe Routes to School” has funding for schools which need sidewalks, crosswalks and other infrastructure improvements. As long as someone is willing to do the paperwork (and often that’s a parent), the money is free for the asking.
For cash-strapped schools, providing safe routes has another advantage. Sometimes, simply adding some stripes of paint and a few yards of concrete can clear the way for significant numbers of walkers and completely eliminate the need for costly bus service.
There were lessons to be learned from Wolftrap’s BikeWalk Challenge. Many families in outlying areas of the school district were unable to take part because there are no sidewalks and it is far too dangerous to dodge cars in the road. But, on the bright side, a Safe Routes project has been discovered.
Adults who once walked or biked to school remember the freedom of getting around on their own. Despite today’s fear-laden society, kids need to spread their wings and get outside whenever they can.
Storied environmental steward Rachel Carson’s words serve as a reminder:
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
If you’re looking for something to do for the Earth Day season, it’s amazing what can be captured at a neighborhood creek cleanup. Maybe a weight bench, a bucket of concrete, or—if you’re lucky—the hearts and minds of a rowdy troop of girl scouts.
With so much hand-wringing about how to connect kids with nature, this way was easy and free. Asking the kids why they were there on a chilly Saturday morning for this year’s Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, helping the planet was secondary. Their first words were always, “It’s fun!”
The Northern Virginia scouts were part of an army of 7,000 rivershed dwellers who trolled the tributaries on April 10. All told, they hauled out 19,000 bags of junk and 994 tires, eight of which from our location.
Nina and her husband, Bob, organized the site – one of 214 across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
According to Nina, the key to getting a good catch is to follow behind the first wave of volunteers who grab obvious things like radiators and roof shingles. She likens her technique to the way her kids scan the pages of ‘Eye Spy’ books for small objects hidden in cluttered background scenes. “If you just stop and look, things just emerge.”
As we did our bit for Mother Earth, she gifted us in return. I pulled out my phone to take a picture of astonishing, perfect footprints of a great blue heron. Another shallow creekbend swirled with tadpoles.
Stretching for some styrofoam shards, I finally stepped in over my boots. Turning tentatively to Nina—who happens to be a marine biologist—I asked about snakes. “That’s why it’s good to do this now. They’re not awake yet.”
The simple act of taking the bus can make a big difference. Last year, because Americans took 10.7 million trips on public transit, 4 billion gallons of gasoline were not used. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in this country – and cars are the biggest contributor. But somehow, as much as we hate traffic, we tend to forget the mighty job a bus can do to get cars off the road. We also overlook that, to a kid, a bus can be a ticket to personal freedom. Knowing how to take transit teaches children to be durable humans.
For Blog Action Day, 2009, I offer the story of how my fifteen year old son and his friend learned the transit lesson. I won’t reprint the whole story which appears in the Washington Post, but suffice it to say the kids and their moms got an education—thanks to technology—on how to research and ride the bus. The families saved both time and money. But for the kids, there was more. As I wrote, “For one thing, they got exercise. Walking that mile to and from the bus happens to be the daily dose of activity recommended for teens by the American Heart Association. Plus, getting outside in the fresh air is an antidote for what author Richard Louv terms “nature deficit disorder.” Louv, in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, also argues that the leash we have on our kids is way too tight. When we allow them to be more self-reliant and self-propelled, they gain pride and satisfaction.”
I am proud there are two more people on the planet who know a viable way to get around without a car.
So, next time you don’t think you can stand another minute behind the wheel, think about whether you—or someone you have to drive—could possibly take the bus.
We might wonder how one of the world’s leading biologists, E. O. Wilson, could say that video games are the future of education. But that he did, today on NPR’s Morning Edition. His blunt prediction: “We’re going through a rapid transition now. We’re about to leave print and textbooks behind.”
It was an extraordinary segment. Renowned electronic game designer, Will Wright, was the guest interviewer. He chose to talk to Wilson, whom Wright says has been a major influence on his career as designer of such blockbusters as Sim City and the evolution-depicting Spore. Wilson believes that video games can actually recreate teaching methods that adults used on kids at the dawn of humankind. ”They went with adults and they learned everything they needed to learn by participating in the process,” Wilson said. Virtual reality games, Wilson says, can do the same thing. In Wilson’s vision, if a teacher wants to visit a tundra, the class can go to a tundra. A rainforest can be explored, canopy to floor, without one bug bite.
The whole conversation was ironic: that technology would end up teaching kids about nature, and that harkening back to prehistoric times could happen best online.
Just last week, WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show featured Eric Garfinkle, developer of the kids video game “Wonder Rotunda”. In the game, kids visit a World’s Fair where they can enter pavilions housing fantastic activities such as visiting the Great Barrier Reef, or taking inside tours of the White House. All of it, of course, is virtual reality. Garfinkle says a big advantage of his game is that parents can go along on the visit, just as if they were actually at the fair.
Every time I find a reason to think we should put the brakes on kids and technology, I find a reason how technology, used with care, can help.