Let’s Get Kids Outdoors!

It’s interesting that two recent books by Milwaukee authors (Saving Sailing by Nicholas Hayes and Every Natural Fact by Amy Lou Jenkins) have both tackled similar issues . . . how to get kids outside and into nature!

How? We need to wean kids (and ourselves?) from the twin threats of passive entertainment (video games, etc.) and over-organized competitive sports (not bad things, they just don’t foster lifelong skills of curiosity, complexity, cooperation, family togetherness, personal satisfaction, appreciation for nature, etc.)

For one of those Milwaukee voices, check out Jenkins’ just-released book: Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

[It] is a narrative of mother-and-son nature outings across the state of Wisconsin. In a style that blends the voices of Janisse Ray and Annie Dillard, a mother and son explore parallels in the world of people and nature. (. . .) These explorations of natural history, flora and fauna, and parenting themes demonstrate that the mythic thread that winds through everything can still be found. . . . [The book] is rich in sensory immediacy, characterization, natural history, and humor.

One glowing review said: “If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.” —Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

Nick Hayes’ award-winning 2009 book, Saving Sailing: The Story of Choices, Families, Time Commitments and How We Can Create a Better Future, shares a similar view on the key: the great reward of outdoor activities in multi-generational settings, especially doing things outdoors as a family. Nick looks at the question of where we choose to spend our available time . . . and how adult mentoring of children in outdoor recreational pastimes leads to lifelong involvement. His passion is for sailing (not as expensive as you might think, as many urban centers like Milwaukee have community sailing coops, or you can sail for free by crewing for a friend with a boat).

Nick documents the decline in outdoor activities over the last several decades . . . and points to the need for conscious decision-making about the kind of life we want to lead, and how we want to raise kids.

Both books, of course, are intimately connected with the powerful message of the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. It’s out in a new 2008 edition . . . and the appendix, by the way, features Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center.

So . . . is there a movement going on . . . in Milwaukee, and across the country . . . in support of getting kids to connect with nature? You bet.

Let’s get children outdoors . . . and loving it!

Whether that means hiking in a state park, sailing or canoeing on a lake or river, or checking out the wild places that exist even in urban neighborhoods.

Let’s learn to be good mentors for kids. These three books will inspire any parent to do just that.

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