Categories
Mission Earth

Tuning in to Nature

By Kenny Peavy

With the exodus of throngs of kids running wildly in fields, climbing trees in the forests and roaming freely through neighbourhoods to the air conditioned, sterile comfort of malls and safe spaces free from the necessary challenges, risky play and scraped knees that used to define growing up has come another hurdle and barrier to the free range childhood of the days of yore.

That hurdle is an addictive and damaging wolf standing in plain sight. Disguised in the sheep’s clothing of endless fun, free games and the promised land of more social connection that ever we welcome the predator of our free time into our homes with swiping thumbs and addicted stares. The wolf is the ever pervasive hand phone and the deceptively innocuous sheep it is clothed in is endless connectivity to mindless entertainment and social media.

In many parts of the world children now spend a few minutes a day, measured in single digits, playing outside, while they spend upwards of 8, 10 and even 12 hours a day glued to their screens. Not only is this having numerous impacts on their physical health it also disconnects them from the natural world they would otherwise be exploring and discovering on a daily basis.

How do we leap over this hurdle and send the wolf back to its den?

How do we allow kids to reconnect with a wild childhood playing, discovering and learning outside?

As is with most things, the answer is deceptively simple yet seemingly difficult to do.

A few suggestions may help:

Take your kids for a Nature walk with no purpose, no objective, no particular aim. Just ramble around and see what you can see. Practice active observation and engage the sense. Ten minutes a day will suffice. More if you can! You’ll be amazed at the benefits to mind, body and spirit!

Find a stump, a shade tree, a stream bank or park bench. Write non-sensical lyrics, explore rhymes and rhythms you hear in the fields, sketch the nearest flower, capture the image of an intriguing insect. Take time to notice the small things. Do it often enough and you’ll start to notice things you never saw or heard before!

Make a list of things you might see in your local ecosystem. Go for a walk and check off how many you see in an afternoon. Even in the most seemingly barren neighbourhoods you’ll be amazed at what you find if you look close enough!

Climb a tree and just sit there for a while looking and listening. Feel the wind. Look at the world from a different perspective. What do you notice?

Flip over a log discover the microcosm of the soil ecosystem. Observe the ants, termites, spiders, worms and other organisms living on the decomposing tree fiber and imagine how they are all working in symphonic symbiosis to covert that log into soil that will sustain yet another generation of trees. And so the cycle goes on and on ad infinitum!

Plant a fruit tree or flower in your yard or in your home. Check it daily. Watch it grow. Record the lifecycle. Measure its growth. See how connected you feel to a plant you have helped bring to life!

And most importantly unplug, tune in, get out!

Unplug from your devices. Turn off your phone and leave it at home

Tune in to Nature. Engage the senses. Take notice of the small things. Smell the earthy soil, feel the cold water of muddy puddles, get caught in aesthetic arrest by a deep azure sky and it’s wispy cumulus companions lofty and floating around the heavens. Get carried away and intoxicated by Nature!

Get outside and play!

Play with no particular schedule, no purpose and welcome boredom to teach you for a while.

You’ll remember how you used to play unfettered, unrestricted and carefree and why that’s how it is supposed to be.

For more ideas on how to connect with Nature join us at https://web.facebook.com/groups/boxpeopleunboxed/.

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Kenny Peavy is an environmentalist who has a memoir called Young Homeless Professional. He has co-authored a pioneering environmental education handbook, As if the Earth Matters, and recently, an illustrated book, The Box People , was re-released digitally to enable children, young people and their parents and educators anywhere in the world to use the book. He also created Waffle House Prophets: Poems Inspired by Sacred People and Places

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Mission Earth

Falling Down and Getting Up!

By Kenny Peavy

If you were born sometime around 1980 or before you most likely spent your childhood outdoors playing, exploring and gallivanting around your neighbourhood. If you were lucky your neighborhood had a mysterious forest that beckoned to be explored!

Sadly, that is rarely true these days.

Right around the turn of the millennium, in the year 2007, as estimated by someone that keeps track of such things in the United Nations, something historic happened and went unnoticed. Most of us didn’t even realise it happened, but it has had a profound effect on us and, especially our children.

For the first time in human history, more people were living in urban areas than rural areas. With more folks in cities and suburbs they had less access to Nature and natural spaces on a daily basis. This means less free-range outdoor play for most kids. Less unsupervised time to roam around in Nature to get lost, fall down, get scraped up and get up again to keep exploring and playing.

The tragedy to all this is that kids are getting less exposure to age appropriate risks and risky play in natural settings. They’re no longer pretending to be Steve Austin The Million Dollar Man or Evel Knievel and expending energy and learning while running full speed to test out the limits and balance of their bionic legs.

If we want our kids to learn their limits and grow up to be resilient adults, we need to let them test those limits in risky play by climbing trees, jumping ramps, riding bikes and sliding down muddy slopes.

Last week my 9-year-old daughter flipped her bicycle. She ran up to the house crying and screaming. Sure enough, she had a bruised clavicle. Pretty painful I imagine with plenty of tears and whelps of pain to accompany the accident. We checked the injury and she still had mobility in the shoulder and arm. No bleeding. No trauma anywhere else. Even so, we went to the clinic for a check. It was all fine and she’s healing well.

Since then, we’ve had several discussions on why and how she flipped her bicycle. What she learned from it. What she would do next time and how she might avoid flipping her bike in the future.

Needless to say, I too have flipped my bike spectacularly many, many times. It comes with the territory of playing outdoors. So, I could relate and offer advice and stories from my personal experience too!

Now she wears her accident as a badge of honor. She said outright and truly believes she’s a tough girl. More confidence coupled with the experience of an accident means cautious and informed confidence. Experience and wisdom for the next time, which will surely come at some point.

So how do we raise resilient kids?

First, you’ve got to overcome your own fear as a parent or teacher. Get outside and fall down yourself.

No one wants a tragic or serious injury but if we learn our personal limits and test our boundaries early on then we’re much less likely to make mistakes or errors in judgement that lead to the bigger and more serious injuries.

Take it stepwise and walk barefoot in the forest. Climb a few trees. Hike up some steep hills. Learn your personal limits and boundaries.

Your kids will naturally take risks and want to jump and climb. Let them learn their limits. You can create a safe, yet challenging environment by letting them make mistakes and learn from them.

They will inevitably fall down and get scraped up. It comes with the territory. But they will learn from it and become more resilient in the process. As an added bonus, they’ll learn their personal limits and push the boundaries of their comfort zones too!

Lastly, learn basic first aid, wilderness first aid and how to deal with emergencies. Not only will this increase your knowledge of what to do in the event of an accident it will also increase your confidence and expand your comfort zone for letting your kids and students learn, play and explore outdoors in Nature.

None of us wants a serious accident but at some point, we all fall down.

The trick is learning to get up and try again!

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Kenny Peavy is an environmentalist who has a memoir called Young Homeless Professional. He has co-authored a pioneering environmental education handbook, As if the Earth Matters, and recently, an illustrated book, The Box People , was re-released digitally to enable children, young people and their parents and educators anywhere in the world to use the book. He also created Waffle House Prophets: Poems Inspired by Sacred People and Places

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Mission Earth

No Adults Allowed!

By Kenny Peavy

When we were kids we weren’t allowed in the house. We were told that kids didn’t belong inside. The philosophy back then was that kids were meant to be outdoors playing. A kids place was outside. No kids inside.

It was a steadfast rule, because if we did manage to sneak into the house for some reason we’d be chased out again by our mamas yelling all sorts of stuff broom in hand.

Looking back, I am incredibly grateful that was the philosophy and the rule. Because it was strictly enforced, me, my sister and all my friends spent endless hours roaming free in the neighborhood in search of adventure, entertainment and distraction.

Boredom was an integral part of being a kid back then. We didn’t have fancy toys or video games. At most we might have a skate board, a bicycle, a football or related outdoor gear like a knife or fishing pole. This led to all sorts of games and time filling activities being invented. Often on the spot.

We’d find some scraps of tape or paper somewhere and roll it up into a ball. A stick became a bat. And a fierce game of stickball might erupt.

We’d yell out rules and make them up as we go.

“Three fouls count as one strike!” yelled just after one kid hit two fouls and we were weary of all the fouls being hit.

“If you hit more than two out of bounds it counts as a strike!” screamed after we got tired of somebody always hitting the ball out of bounds.

“If you can’t tag the person, you can throw the ball at ‘em to get ‘em out!” negotiated when the fastest player screamed around the bases. No one could catch them!

If we couldn’t catch them, maybe we might have a chance to get them out by flinging the ball at them as they scooted by. Or so it was reasoned.

“Wait, it only counts if you hit ‘em below the waistline.” a correction to the previous rule invented after someone got smacked in the skull. We couldn’t deliberately try to knock them out or aim at the head.

And so, it went. No adults in sight. No adults allowed.

All rules invented and implemented on the spot. Everything created on the fly.

We were learning negotiation skills. We were learning how to communicate. We were learning how to argue our case for the new rules we’d invented and wanted to implement. We were learning strategy and empathy (when someone got a bloody lip from being plonked with the paper tape ball!).

Of course, we didn’t call it that. We didn’t even realise it at the time. No one was implicitly teaching us.

We just called it playing outside.

All of it. Every single bit of it was student centered, student driven, discovery and peer teaching at its best. (To use modern educational jargon).

So much learning was taking place through play!

The best days would be when we would pretend to be Steve Austin from The Six Million Dollar Man and run through the woods in slow motion pretending to have bionic legs. Or even better, when we imagined we were Evel Knievel and set up ramps across the creek to simulate his jump across the Grand Canyon.

And some of the best times were when we built forts in the woods and pretended to be conquering knights or when we tried to build tree huts and figure out how to engineer slabs of 2” X 4” pieces of wood to stay in place and then figure out how to make a ladder using vines without accidentally weaving in poison ivy!

Boredom was the key. It gave time, space and freedom to make up our own games. Time to create. Time to invent.

If boredom is the mother of invention, then the lack of pre-made and readymade resources is the father. Back then we weren’t infected with Affluenza, the disease of affluence and excess, so we had to be inventive and creative with what little we had if we wanted to play and have fun.

I am afraid that is what is lacking today. A lack of lacking. We have too much. Too many things and too many distractions.

As a result, boredom has retreated into the forest waiting for explorers and adventurers to venture into the woods and come to discover their Muses for creativity and invention.

Things have changed since we were kids being chased out of the house.

Adults are always present. Rules are imposed. Games come pre-assembled. There are 1000+ tiny pieces or a screen. Batteries or a charger are always required.

Play dates are made. Play is scheduled and not spontaneous. The places where the play dates happen are sterile and manicured as ‘proper’ playgrounds tend to be these days.

Wildness and spontaneity have been chased out the window by fear, efficiency and convenience.

We even have terms for what we used to simply call playing outside. Now it’s referred to unsupervised, unstructured free time. Research is done on this topic. Papers are written. Data is analysed.

When all we simply need to do is get outside and play in Nature.

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Kenny Peavy is an environmentalist who has a memoir called Young Homeless Professional. He has co-authored a pioneering environmental education handbook, As if the Earth Matters, and recently, an illustrated book, The Box People , was re-released digitally to enable children, young people and their parents and educators anywhere in the world to use the book. He also created Waffle House Prophets: Poems Inspired by Sacred People and Places

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Mission Earth

Mama Calling

By Kenny Peavy

The streetlights would dim. The magic hour when the sun sets over the horizon was settling in. Everything bathed in golden light.

It was the time of day that always beckoned for one last toss of the ball, one last kick, one last run.

Soon I would hear, “Keeeeeeeennnnnyyyyyyy! Keeeeeennnnnyyyyyy!!”

My mama would be shouting from the porch calling me home.

Time to scoot home before dark.

Whatever we happened to be doing that day was coming to its finale.

If we were playing some sort of ball, we’d have one last run. Screaming wildly as we knew it would be the last epic play of the day.

If we were in the woods, we’d scramble down the trail giggling the whole way. Stumbling over tree roots and errant rocks we’d make our way home before it got too dark to follow the path out into the clearing where it would still be bright enough to get home before it was pitch black out.

That was our life as kids. We had no idea it could be any different.

If you had this lifestyle, you were most likely born before the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Most folks born in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s had a childhood growing up outdoors playing with other children.

Youngsters went to school until about 3 o’clock. After school, you changed clothes as fast as you could standing on one leg without falling over. You would gulp down some cookies and water and scamper out of the door not to be seen until the sun slid below the horizon.

That’s how it was.

We played all sorts of games. Half of them we just made up ourselves like stick ball, jump rope using a water hose, and plenty of variations of a ball game with the core theme to throw a ball up in the air and then pounce fiercely and tackle whoever caught it.

Gangs of youngsters voraciously roamed the neighborhood looking for fun and diversion. Boys and girls alike. Mostly from about age 8 to 12 years old. 

If I recall correctly, the teens were just a bit too cool for our childish games. They had their own club.

If we weren’t playing ball games, we were fishing, exploring trails or building tree huts and forts of all size and manner.

I particularly liked fishing and exploring the pond and nearby creeks. 

I was drawn to anything outdoors in the woods, really. A fascination for learning how nature works grew out of a natural curiosity to discover what might lie under half-decomposed logs, below the leaf litter or straddled on the creek banks.

Those days of endless outdoor play. Searching. Looking. Finding. With boredom as a major component of what spurred us into creating our own games and entertainment.

Those memories are burned in my soul like the Georgia sun on a sweltering August day. 

We were always hot and sweaty. Perpetually looking for adventure. Seeking new ways to play and ultimately connect with each other and the earthy soil where we’d lie down in the shade of a massive oak tree collapsed from exhaustion. 

I’m afraid children don’t get that sort of freedom anymore. Free to explore and roam and play with their peers unfettered, unsupervised and unafraid.

I am hoping we can recapture that. A time for kids to play and explore. 

I wish we could see that it is necessary. We all need to get outside and connect with Nature.

I invite you to listen. Listen carefully and you will hear.

Our mama is calling. Shouting our names, she is calling us home.

She needs us to play in her forests and streams. 

She beckons us to roam around seeking, searching and exploring the natural world.

The magic hour is once again upon us and it’s time to bathe in golden light.

Courtesy: Kenny Peavy

Kenny Peavy is an environmentalist who has a memoir called Young Homeless Professional. He has co-authored a pioneering environmental education handbook, As if the Earth Matters, and recently, an illustrated book, The Box People , was re-released digitally to enable children, young people and their parents and educators anywhere in the world to use the book. He also created Waffle House Prophets: Poems Inspired by Sacred People and Places

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL