Finding Time For A Green Hour
Using the Internet, parents can inspire each other to unplug for a few moments each day -- and enjoy nature with their families
Life is full of ironies. In 2007, the National Wildlife Federation launched the Green Hour program
, giving parents the tools to make the outdoors part of their children’s daily life.
How? Using the Internet -- considered by many the enemy to outdoor experience.
True, the lure of online life has crowded out “real” experiences for many people -- you know, things like picnics, cloud-watching, jumping in leaf piles. And a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation founds that kids spend, on average, 7 hrs and 38 mins per day engaging with electronic media.
That alarming statistic underscores why NWF jumped onto the front lines -- and into cyberspace. At Greenhour.org, thousands of people received our inspiring message exactly when they needed it: while staring at a pixilated screen -- indoors.
Now Green Hour has seeded a larger campaign at NWF, the Be Out There movement, thanks to the support of parents who got the message online. They blogged, Twittered and FaceBooked about the program, and donated photos of their own families enjoying the outdoors.
These moms and dads have busy lives -- packed with soccer practices, full-time jobs, doctors' appointments, and so on. But they understand that time spent outside can untangle stress -- and reconnect them with their families, nature, and their true "off-line" selves.
We asked some of Be Out There’s biggest supporters to share memorable outdoor moments with us:
Ashley Waldvogel: Playing With Imagination
I like to think of myself as a pretty easy-going mother, but in reality I tend to get a little worked up sometimes. Every now and then the chaos and the mess of life gets to be a bit much for me. I was having such a day a few weeks ago. After picking the kids up as school – mine plus 2 neighbors – the thought of 4 children tearing through my already messy house was more than I could bear.
We got out of the car, dropped bags on the porch, and headed down the street to play in the square. The kids were clamoring to go inside first and grab action figures or video games but I just kept walking, afraid I might scream if I opened my mouth (please tell me other people have those kinds of days!) As we walked, the oldest child in the group, a very wise 7 year old, said to the others, "We don’t need toys, we can play with our imaginations!"
And they did.
They climbed trees, found hideouts in the bushes, made necklaces of grass and leaves. No plastic involved. No batteries required. And I found, as I always do, that I could breathe a little easier, my fuse wasn’t so short, I had a smile on my face even though the sink was full of dirty dishes and I hadn’t yet started dinner and the homework was yet undone. Some things are just more important.
Ashley Gaddy is a mother in Savannah, GA and author of the blog Fletcher & Lola.
Jennifer Ward: Nighttime Visitors
One fall morning, I was puzzled to discover my recently filled hummingbird feeder completely drained. Living in Southern Arizona, we had a wide variety of hummingbird species feed from this source daily and year-round. Once filled, the nectar usually lasted several days.
Come nightfall, we discovered nectar bats drinking from the hummingbird feeder. They were large in size, and a magnificent sight as they zoomed into the food source with amazing speed and precision, enjoying the sweet nectar as they prepared for their migration south for the winter.
Boy, could they move fast! In a blink, one would hit the feeder and be gone.
My daughter and I would sit outside on the back porch in the dark and watch them in action for hours.
We could feel the breeze created by their large wings on our faces as they flew by in rapid succession; hundreds of them, a mere few feet from where we silently sat. It was a wild experience!
Jennifer Ward is a mom and the author of I Love Dirt! and numerous children's books, all of which present nature to kids. She lives in Illinois. Learn more about her at www.jenniferwardbooks.com.
Mary Quattlebaum: Fairies Need Exercise, Too!
Like many kids, my daughter would play for hours with the sticks, pebbles, leaves and natural stuff she found outdoors. When she was four, she loved creating fairy houses and filling them with stone tables, flower-petal beds and acorn-top dishes. Often, these elaborate little structures reflected some recent experience and offered an intriguing window into her interests and ideas. Tiny mounds of "hay" and a teensy pond for fairy horses appeared after a trip to my parents' farm. One day after visiting my extremely fit sister, my daughter built her usual small fairy house and fashioned an even smaller house beside it.
"What’s that?" I asked.
Her reply: "The fairies' exercise cottage."
Mary Quattlebaum is the author of fifteen award-winning children's books, including the Jackson Jones chapter-book series (Random House) about a boy and his adventures in a city community garden. Check www.maryquattlebaum.com for activities connected with Mary's books.
Check out Part Two, where more Green Hour parents share their outdoor memories: Veronique Christensen, Holly Ambrose, Jane Kirkland.