Friday, 30 March 2012

A plan to save Europe's threatened butterflies - Technology & science - Science - OurAmazingPlanet -

A plan to save Europe's threatened butterflies

First bees and then butterflies, aren't we a grand species. This must be the reason for all the extreme worldwide weather events. You know,  "A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil we get a hurricane of the coast of Florida"

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above 

....In the last 15 years alone, the numbers of 17 key European butterfly species have declined by 70 percent, according to a statement from researchers with the group Butterfly Conservation Europe. Up to 10 percent of the butterfly species are now threatened with extinction. Across the Atlantic, in North America, monarch butterfly numbers have also suffered.

In Europe, habitat destruction is fueling the steep losses.....Oddly, it appears that the decline of agriculture in Europe is bad for the butterflies.

......the report say that maintaining working farms is an important activity that keeps woody shrubs from taking over the grassy meadows where butterflies typically live. In addition, ...... grazing animals also help preserve key butterfly habitat. However, they say that too much agriculture — cutting too much grass for hay, letting animals overgraze a pasture — can kill off the insects.

The group also recommends keeping a diverse mosaic of plants alive in key grassland areas, since different species rely on different plants, and employ a wide variety of strategies to survive. In fact, one threatened butterfly relies on ants to stay alive, and as the ants are disappearing, so are their larger insect dependants.

"Managing habitats in the correct way is the single most important issue affecting the survival of European butterflies," lead author Chris van Swaay, of Dutch Butterfly Conservation, said in a statement. ......"We hope the advice will be taken up urgently across Europe to help save these beautiful species from extinction."

Monday, 26 March 2012

Growing Change

I highly recommend everyone view the documentary Growing Change. The film 'follows a filmmaker's journey to understand why current food systems leave hundreds of millions of people in hunger.  It's a journey to understand how the world will feed itself in the future in the face of major environmental challenges....... After hearing about efforts in Venezuela to develop a more equitable and sustainable food and agriculture system, the filmmaker heads there to see if it's working and find out what we might be able to learn from this giant experiment.

We meet people in the cities and in the countryside and learn that while Venezuela once had a strong agriculture sector it was left behind as the country became a major oil exporting economy in the 20th century. After decades of urbanisation, government neglect for agriculture, and dependent on food imports, Venezuela faced a food crisis of its own. In may ways the country was a microcosm of the challenges facing much of the world today.

.....The documentary takes us through a new food system as it's being constructed almost from scratch.
We meet farmers who are gaining access to land for the first time and working in cooperatives to break the country's reliance on imports. In lush costal villages we meet cocoa producers who are now protected against being paid below the minumum price and are now involved in the local processing of chocolate rather than just exporting raw beans. We head out to sea with fisherfolk who are benefiting from new regulations that ban industrial trawling.In the chaotic metropolis of Caracas we find urban gardens thriving and supplementing diets with fresh organic produce. We go inside shops where the urban poor have access to affordable food.

It's all part of a country-wide process towards "food sovereignty", driven by communities and the government. At the core of the process are principles of social justice and sustainability.'

Beekeepers ask EPA to ban pesticide toxic to bees - Technology & science - Science -

Beekeepers ask EPA to ban pesticide toxic to bees - Technology & science - Science -

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above

An-i-mal identification lesson 2# - These are bees, they have knees. Bees are not dangerous! (unless you suffer from a specific allergic reaction (which is around 1-2% of the world population at varying degrees) although it's more than likely you may suffer a detrimental reaction to nut tainted products or hidden additives or preservatives or oil based resins used to make your fruit look pretty... you get the idea . Bees make honey and pollinate vegetation. Supermarkets do not make honey, vegetables, fruit or any product derived from an organic source that requires pollination. Ergo Bees are good, supermarkets... meh!

'...Commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations filed a petition Wednesday, asking federal regulators to suspend use of a pesticide they say harms honeybees.....Over 1.25 million people also submitted comments in partnership with the organizations, calling on EPA to take action....Beekeepers and some scientists say the chemicals known as neonicotinoids are lethal to bees and weaken their immune systems, making them more susceptible to pathogens. They say it could contribute to colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear or die.......

The disorder continues to decimate hives in the U.S. and overseas. Since it was recognized in 2006, the disease has destroyed colonies at a rate of about 30 percent a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before that, losses were about 15 percent a year from a variety of pests and diseases.......
Bees pollinate about a third of U.S. crops.

.......Frazier said studies have shown that clothianidin is toxic to bees. The pollen that bees take back to their colonies contains the chemical, as does the dust that comes off planters......."It's a subtle long-term issue," Anderson said. "It's like giving bees AIDS. Their immune systems are down and all the pathogens and viruses become virulent. So the bees succumb much more readily."

Anderson, who has pollinated California's almonds and cherries for more than 30 years, said he's backing away from cherry pollination because the trees are sprayed with the chemical......"They do it after we remove the bees, but the trees are retaining the chemical from one season to the next and creating a situation where the bloom is becoming toxic," Anderson said'

A few Bee songs from Preschool Education Songs, Strangely I could not find any Supermarket songs.

The Swarm of Bees
One little honeybee by my window flew;
Soon came another - then there were two.
Two happy honeybees in the apple tree;
One more bee came buzzing up - then there were three.
Three busy honeybees starting to explore
Another bee came to help - then there were four.
Four laden honeybees flying to the hive;
They were joined by one more bee - then there were five.
Five tired honeybees with the others mix;
Now there's a swarm of them - a hundred times six.

Bumble Bee
Sung to: "Jingle Bells"
Bumble Bee, bumble bee,
Landing on my nose,
Bumble bee, bumble bee,
Now he's on my toes.

On my arms, on my legs,
On my elbows.
Bumble bee, oh bumble bee
He lands, and then he goes.

Buzzing Bumble bees
6 buzzing bumblebees
Flying around the hive
One buzzes off and that leaves 5.
5 buzzing bumblebees
Flying near my door,
1 buzzes off and that leaves 4
4 buzzing bumblebees
Flying around a tree,
1 busses off and that leaves 3
3 buzzing bumblebees
In the sky so blue
1 buzzes of and that leaves 2
2 buzzing bumblebees
Flying by the sun
1 buzzes off and that leaves 1
1 buzzing bumblebee
Looking for some fun
It buzzes off and that leaves none.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Group works to cure ‘nature deficit disorder’

Group works to cure ‘nature deficit disorder’

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above 

An-i-mal identification lesson 1# - This is a cow. Cows are not dangerous! Cows make milk, butter, cheese and ice cream, Supermarkets do not make milk, butter, cheese and ice cream. Ergo cows are good, supermarkets... meh!
'Splashing in a puddle. Stomping through a stream. Climbing a tree ... just some of the simple pleasures of childhood — but not everyone’s childhood.

More and more children are growing up with little or no connection to the outdoors. And a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend more than seven hours a day using entertainment media including television, computers and video games. “The bottom line is that all of these advances in media technologies are making it even easier for young people to spend more and more time with media,” said Victoria Rideout, Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the study. “It’s more important than ever that researchers, policymakers and parents stay on top of the impact it’s having on their kids’ lives.”

The negative health implications of a sedentary childhood are numerous.....
 Obesity puts children at risk for a lifetime of health problems including diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Overweight children also have an increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory problems.

Studies have also found that ....children have insufficient Vitamin D levels, which can put children at an increased risk for osteoporosis and rickets. As little as 10-15 minutes of sunlight exposure twice a week, however, is all that’s needed to produce the necessary amount of Vitamin D.

Studies have shown (that) outdoor play can provide relief from some ADHD symptoms. Studies have also shown that interaction with nature can help children who are stressed or have anxiety issues.
An American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report touts the “protective assets and increased resilience developed through free play.”

Nature play isn’t intended to add to the chaos (of family life)but help reduce it. Five Rivers Metro Parks naturalist Doug Horvath suggests ........“The backyard is a perfect place to start,” Horvath said. “Go on a backyard safari, look at shadows, look for bugs. Put a log in your backyard and watch what happens underneath there after a while.” Creating a tiny fantasy home is something families can do in their own backyard with rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers, pine cones or anything else they find......“It can provide an opportunity for families to be creative, work together and provide a tactile experience,”. 

Horvath acknowledges that some parents aren’t comfortable themselves with nature but he insists they need not feel pressure. “Kids have a billion questions and parents worry that they won’t have the answers, but what a child really needs is someone to share in the adventure,” he said.

.....Susan Balter has been a preschool teacher for more than two decades and she has seen the effects of nature deficit disorder firsthand.  “I’m seeing too many kids spending too much time in front of the computer,” Balter said. “Kids don’t know what to do outside or how to explore. And there are physical differences you can see, they are heavier, less coordinated and have low muscle tone.”

Children denied joy of nature, says National Trust

BBC News - Children denied joy of nature, says National Trust

More power to the trust.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above

'Children are being denied the enjoyment of the outdoors and nature with consequences for their health, the head of the National Trust has warned.

Dame Fiona Reynolds told the Times the freedom of children to roam unsupervised had shrunk massively since the 1970s. She blamed nervousness and technology, adding that the creep of urban sprawl had destroyed safe places to play.She called for children to be taught outside on a weekly basis.

Trust chief executive Dame Fiona said: "Children are missing out on the sheer joy and physical and mental well-being of being able to play outside and experience nature in all its messiness.  "The world is a different place and people have become very anxious about the risks - real or perceived." She called on schools to take the initiative and to change the way they teach children.

"The world is changing. It is more recognised now that some of these more innovative ways of teaching are just as effective for literacy and numeracy as sitting in the classroom in a very structured way."  The trust, which has nearly four million members, believes the cloistered upbringing of children could be harmful.  It cites figures that shows children are three times more likely to hurt themselves falling out of bed than by falling out of a tree.'

Slice of Albuquerque Will be Turned into the Children’s Bosque: More Kids in the Woods Projects and Children’s Forests Nationwide Receive $1 Million Funding

USDA Blog » Slice of Albuquerque Will be Turned into the Children’s Bosque: More Kids in the Woods Projects and Children’s Forests Nationwide Receive $1 Million Funding

An exciting and pertinent project funded by a government service - who knew.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above 

Urban children in Albuquerque, N.M., will soon be able to descend on 20 acres of forestland along the Rio Grande River, where they will have the freedom to climb onto an elevated fort, hike on a trail through the cottonwood forest to learn about the different plants and animals and do what all children are supposed to do: play outside.

Children’s Bosque – Spanish for forest – is one of eight Children’s Forests and 23 More Kids in the Woods projects in 18 states awarded a total of $1 million in cost-share grants from the U.S. Forest Service. Each of the winning projects has the backing of partners and local communities, and winning proposals either expand current projects or create new ones.

In Albuquerque, it’s a brand new project on an idle piece of land that pulls together a cultural center, a Forest Service employee and the elementary school her children attends.

“They’ve been trying to do something with this site for at least eight years,” said Alicia San Gil of the Forest Service’s Region 3 office in Albuquerque. “We want to make it a space that will attract kids. We’ll make signage, trails and an outdoor classroom that looks like a fort. This site is an urban area with not a lot of play spaces, and certainly not a forested area where they can go. This land is perfect.”

“When we started thinking about the Children’s Forest, it all made sense,” she said. “They have a lot of activities at the center, and the kids can walk back and forth to the Cultural Center from the land. And we have all these employees here who would be great mentors.”

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Nature That Nurtures: Scientific American

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above

Nature is as much a part of us as the skin on our bodies. Denial, separation or removal from nature can cause a dis-ease, just as exposure can be soothing and remedially therapeutic. A number of hospitals have embraced gardens like this for patients undergoing treatment for chronic or terminal illnesses. A number of schools for children and adults with additional needs have also successfully incorporated such gardens into their environments and curricula. This is a really great piece that highlights the benefits of such additions.

'To get an inkling of what a well-designed hospital garden can mean to a seriously ill child, watch the home video posted on YouTube last August of Aidan Schwalbe, a three-year-old heart-transplant recipient. The toddler is shown exploring the meandering paths, sun-dappled lawn and gnarled roots of a branching shade tree in the Prouty Garden at Children’s Hospital Boston. “He loves to be out in the garden feeding the birds and squirrels,” wrote Aidan’s grandmother in an August blog entry. “They will all weigh 30 lbs. each by the time we leave here!”

The garden that Aidan loves—with its vibrant greenery, shaded places to sit and walk, and small, half-hidden animal sculptures that fascinate visitors of all ages—is “one of the most successful hospital gardens in the country,” says Clare Cooper Marcus, an emeritus professor in landscape architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dismissed as peripheral to medical treatment for much of the 20th century, gardens are back in style, now featured in the design of most new hospitals, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects. In a recent survey of 100 directors and architects of assisted-living residences, 82 percent agreed that “the design of outdoor space should be one of the most important considerations in the design.”'

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Jury is still out, but iPads may put the pen to the sword

Jury is still out, but iPads may put the pen to the sword

YES!     iPads for everyone!!!! - NOT.

Thousands of years developing a multitude of written languages, the beauty and meditative benefit of calligraphy, the joy of getting that next novel in the series - and we're supposed to bin it all because Apple says so. Bugger that!  Also the way the reporter reports that Charlotte (bless her bobby socks) "caresses her new tablet" is just a tad creepy and makes me wonder if someone is trying just a little bit to hard to do Apple a commercial favour? BTW The radical transformation of traditional methods is exactly the same thing done electronically. People used tablets and styli long before you needed to put batteries in either.  Don't get me wrong, it's beneficial for children of this age to be aware of and proficient in contemporary technology, HOWEVER...... it's just a computer.  Computer do not educate children, educators do. Sorry for the rant but I was drowning in the verbose clichés this piece offers.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above 

"PEN and paper are not yet in the dustbin of history but the radical transformation being wrought in the learning experiences of year 6 students at Neutral Bay Public School in Sydney's lower north shore suggests time may be running out for traditional methods.

The school has just issued all 145 year 6 students with an iPad as part of a $100,000 year-long trial. Almost all classroom work will now be done on the hand-held device.

''It's better than writing in books,'' says Charlotte Prichard, 11, as she lovingly caresses her new tablet.

Working in groups of two or three on a maths project some students sit at desks, others lie on the floor and some cradle iPads on their knees. Few take their eyes from the screen for a moment, and then only to display their work to their teacher, David Brown.

The iPads, which remain school property and are locked away at the end of the day, have been bought by the school from public funds scrimped from recent budgets - savings made possible by the strong financial support of parents.

The trial is part of a new wave of technology washing through public schools. Alexandria Park Community School in Sydney's inner east has given students from kindergarten through to year 12 access to a laptop as part of a community project.

Students at Neutral Bay can write by hand on the tablets but the deputy principal, Owen Taylor, emphasises pen and paper remained in play.

''We're not throwing out pens and paper and all the 20th-century stuff, but it's not playing as much of a role as it used to,'' Mr Taylor says.

What the iPad does - apart from put a world of knowledge immediately within reach of everyone in the room at the same time - is make technology integral to learning rather than an add-on experience.

Children may still be set the same task - although increasingly they are given individual challenges - but can produce their answer in a format that suits them, says Mr Brown.

On their way to a conclusion they might write, draw, record or film their thoughts on how they tackled the task, and Mr Brown acknowledges it is a struggle to keep pace with avenues his students are exploring.

''I'm pretty good but the kids are always one step ahead of me,'' he says.

He emphasises the iPads need to prove their worth to remain in the classroom. ''It is a trial and if it is not making a significant difference to our kids' learning outcomes then we won't maintain it long-term,'' he says.

Sharon Mitchell, whose daughter Alice Bishop is part of the trial, says it has given students ''a bolt of energy''.

''They've all still got to learn to read and to do their maths,'' she says. ''Everyone bribes and coerces their kids and finds ways to get them motivated. This has given these kids unbelievable motivation.''

Catching Lizards & Nature-Deficit Disorder « AARP

Catching Lizards & Nature-Deficit Disorder « AARP
Not so strange that I remember exactly the same things from my childhood, a lifetime ago and 10,000 kms apart.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above

Photo the property and work of Luigi Guarino 
'...... Like many of you, I remember a childhood where we were pushed out the door to play and told to come back when the streetlights came on or we heard dad yelling from down the street that dinner was ready, whichever came first! I won’t wax nostalgic about simpler, safer times – that’s not my point. But when was the last time you saw kids just playing outside, team sports excluded?

My kids are all grown now but they still talk about the adventures they had at the stream down the hill from us where a lovely young mother taught them, along with her own little ones, how to fasten a reed loop snare to catch lizards, watch them in the shoe box, and then let them go. 

Or when they caught tadpoles in the same stream and brought them home to their aquarium and watch them turn into frogs (not mom’s favorite!). Or, after we moved to the DC area, racing their friends on their bikes in the “Haycock Woods” over the bumpy trails between the elementary and middle schools. I felt especially blessed the day I was invited to get on my bike so they could show me their special trails.

Now, 10 years later, the “Haycock Woods” has been turned into townhomes, the stream has been walled off as denser housing built up around it, and the bikes have been donated to charity. But the memories live on forever. I believe they helped my children develop a wider sense of responsibility for the natural world, and a deeper sense of connection to it. I worry my grandchildren will have to work much harder for those connections.'

Children’s Books Increasingly Ignore Natural World - Miller-McCune

Children’s Books Increasingly Ignore Natural World - Miller-McCune

And again..... it's usually the little, consistent, almost subliminal messages that end up having a such a profound effect.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above

Picture an illustrated children’s book — one that has won a prestigious award — and your mind conjures up images of furry animals, puffy clouds, and eager boys and girls enjoying adventures in the wild.

In fact, our kids are entering a much different world in their earliest literary experiences — one in which nature plays an increasingly minor role. That’s the conclusion of anewly published study, which suggests these books reflect our growing estrangement from the natural environment.

A group of researchers led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist J. Allen Williams Jr. studied the winners of the American Library Association’s prestigious Caldecott Medal between 1938 (the year the prize was first awarded) through 2008. They looked at more than 8,000 images in the 296 volumes.

They noted whether each image depicted a natural environment (such as a forest), a built environment (such as a house), or a modified environment (such as a cornfield or manicured lawn). In addition, they observed whether the illustrations contained any animals, and if so, rated them as either domestic, wild or anthropomorphized (that is, taking on human qualities).

The results, published in the journal Sociological Inquiry, are sobering. “There have been significant declines in depictions of natural environments and animals, while built environments have become much more common,” the researchers report.

Specifically, they find images of built and natural environments were “almost equally likely to be present” in books published from the late 1930s through the 1960s. But in the mid-1970s, illustrations of the built environment started to increase in number, while there were fewer and fewer featuring the natural environment. “This gap widened in every subsequent decade,” Williams and his colleagues write. “Natural environments have all but disappeared.”

In line with this trend, “from the 1960s onward, interactions with wild animals decline steadily.” More surprisingly, even cats and dogs don’t play the role they once did in these stories...... this trend continued into the 2000s, well after the urban migration had run its course, suggests something more is going on. Think of it as a precursor to Nature Deficit Disorder.

Of course, children don’t only read books that win the Caldecott Medal. But the researchers note that such award-winning volumes tend to sell well, circulate strongly at libraries, and “influence taste for children’s literature” as a whole.

“These findings suggest that today’s generation of children are not being socialized, at least through this source, toward an understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the place of humans within it,” Williams and his colleagues conclude.

They go on to note that the “decline in support of the environmental movement during the 2000s decade,” as measured by Gallup surveys, “is consistent with the decline in depiction of the natural world and its wildlife inhabitants” in these popular books.

Whether these prize-winning volumes are part of the problem, or simply a symptom of larger societal trends, is an open question. But this research suggests we’re missing an opportunity to teach young children to respect nature, perhaps because we never learned that lesson ourselves.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Cultural cringe: schoolchildren can't see the yoghurt for the trees

I've written a number of pieces in the past highlighting what I viewed as everyday symptoms of childrens' disassociation with their environment and in turn nature as a whole. However, blogging is one thing, having a study means I own everyone's house!...... no not really...... it just tells us what everyone could see if they stopped long enough to look.

Before you view this piece have a look at a Jamie Oliver video where he quizzes younger children on  the names of vegetables. You may think, well they're younger, they shouldn't be expected to know to know, however getting to 12 and not knowing where yoghurt or cotton come from? Just sad. In Australia for overseas readers year 6 (the final year of Primary school) hosts children who are 11-12 years of age.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above.  

'A national survey of year 6 and 10 students by the Australian Council for Educational Research found yawning gaps in young people's knowledge of basic food origins.

In a hypothetical lunch box of bread, cheese and a banana, only 45 per cent in year 6 could identify all three as from farms.

More than 40 per cent in year 10 thought cotton came from an animal and more than a quarter of their younger peers believed yoghurt came from plants. In year 10, only 13 per cent identified yoghurt as a plant product.

The Primary Industries Education Foundation, which commissioned the research to be released today, said the findings were a ''wake-up'' call.

''We're a very urbanised nation,'' said the foundation's chairman, Cameron Archer. ''Food is relatively cheap. Everyone takes it for granted and we're quite complacent about our well-being.''

''I was surprised that some of these very, very basic relationships weren't understood,'' he said. ''It's fascinating you can have a big bale of hay one day and then milk to produce a few thousand lattes the next day.''

 The survey found most children believed timber was mostly harvested from native forests and about a third thought wildlife could not survive on farmed land.

'The end result of being so separated from our food is that we really devalue our farmers,'' the president of the alliance, Liz Millen, said. ''We tend to think that we've got an endless supply [of food],'' she said.'

Thursday, 1 March 2012

BBC News - Forest play aids nursery children's mediation skills

Not a bit of soft fall...unless you count the original...nor piece of set equipment in sight.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above. 

A trial of outdoor learning in the woods designed to promote independent play in nursery children led to them learning to solve disputes themselves. The Pontycymer Nursery youngsters were part of a test project in Bridgend.

The children were encouraged to play together and with materials such as buckets and trowels and were discreetly observed by staff.  ........At their first Play Project session, the children were taught how to carry out a simple risk assessment of the woodland and given basic resources such as buckets, ropes, trowels, mud and water to encourage them to start playing.

The resources were reduced each week until the children just used what they could find in the woods to interact with and use in their games. Part of the philosophy behind the project is modelled on outdoor learning in Sweden, which aims to encourage independent learning.

......She said of the mediation skills the children started showing: "The conflict resolution came along during the project. Withdrawing adult-led interaction, it was a byproduct of the process.

....The children learned "how to negotiate with each other to get an agreed outcome" and were "finding out about becoming more resilient when things don't go their way. ....."These are important lifelong skills that we hope will remain with these youngsters long after."

Lynne Walsh from Pontycymer Nursery said they hoped the project would foster a lifelong interest for the children in the natural world, and respect for the environment......She said of the project: "The children have grown in confidence over the weeks and are able to implement conflict resolution strategies independently."  Ms Prior said it was also helping their social development and they were becoming "increasingly creative with the natural resources available to them."

The Need for "Wild" Play: Let Children Be the Animals They Need to Be | Psychology Today

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above. 

...This second edition of Bob Hughes's Evolutionary Playwork is an outstanding book that should be read carefully by anyone who's interested in play, and then read again and again. 

........After all, we're big-brained altricial mammals, born helpless and requiring extensive adult care, who learn a wide variety of skills through different sorts of play. 

.....what is "evolutionary playwork"....Hughes coined the term to re-emphasise that the growing body of scientific evidence confirming a direct relationship between play, evolution and brain growth, demonstrated that play work should never have been viewed either as a social engineering, a socialising or citizenship tool, but rather as comprehensive support for deep biological processes—expressed through mechanisms like adaptation, flexibility, calibration and the different play types—that enabled the human organism to withstand the pressures of extinction." Thus, "playwork was about helping the species to survive extinction and adapt to change, by ensuring that wild adult-free play in diverse environments was still a choice for its children."

Hughes also wants to know what we need to do in the future to make real play a reality, play that is not bounded by adult rules..... if the activity is bounded by adult rules, if it is stiff, formalised and dominated by the need to score points and flatter one's ego, that is not play, it is something else..... Play, like life, is not safe, and if it is, it is not play.

... From time to time teachers and child psychologists ask me questions such as, "What can we learn from the way in which animals play that will help us gain a better understanding of human play?" This is happening more and more as kids are increasingly pulled from the playground to their computers and other devices .......Social networks also get in the way of spontaneous social play and many people are rightfully concerned about what these means for the current and future well-being of today's youngsters.

Basically, we can learn about the various reasons why animals play including its vital role in social development and socialization, physical exercise, cognitive development, and also for learning social skills concerning fairness, cooperation, and moral behavior ...

.....Simply put, and I don't know anyone who would disagree (including perhaps even those who force kids to sit in front of their computers and don't support the U. N. Convention of the rights of the child) young children need to play just as young animals need to play. We need free-ranging kids and we need to allow kids to be the animals who they are. They must be allowed to "get down and dirty" and learn to take risks and negotiate social relationships that might be complicated, unexpected, or unpredictable. .......... "It is vital that we understand that our children are our future, that without them we do not have one, and without 'wild' play neither do they. They need freedom and space, and both should be awarded freely and ungrudgingly, as a demonstration of our civilization." 

I love the slogan of Play Wales, Better a broken bone than a broken spirit, attributed to Lady Allen of Hurtwood. We should embrace it with all our heart. 

'Active' Video Games May Not Boost Kids' Fitness: Study

It may seem unkind but when I read this article all I could think was "Well DUH!"                                         

I have a friend whose young son returned home from the pub one night to play Wii bowling with his friends. His son became a tad overenthusiastic and managed to throw the controller into the screen of their new TV. Currently the son is getting lots of real exercise working a 2nd job to pay for the replacement TV. I can't help but think that  this whole episode would have been avoided if they had really gone bowling.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above. 

... Apparently there's no guarantee that your kids will mend their couch-potato ways if you give them a fitness video game.

A new study found no differences in physical activity over a three-month period between a group of children given "active" video games that simulated boxing and dancing, for example, and a group given "non-active" video games.

.....The scientists followed 78 children between the ages of 9 and 12, and gave each a new Wii video game console. None had owned one before. Half were invited to choose from a selection of five active fitness-focused games such as Wii Fit Plus, while the other half chose from inactive games, including Mario Kart Wii. The youngsters received needed accessories including balance boards, remote controllers and resistance bands.

Baranowski said letting the children chose their own games was important, and they were given an opportunity to select one at the start and then another new one after six weeks. "We wanted to be sure they were getting something they wanted and we weren't foisting one on them," he said.

To measure physical activity, each participant wore an accelerometer, an electronic device attached to a belt at the waist that tracks movement. The belt could be taken off only when swimming or bathing, and the children kept a journal of when they removed it. The authors said compliance was high because the youngsters wanted to keep their Wii consoles.

Baranowski said they expected that starting at week one there would be a substantial increase in physical activity in the group that played the active games, but not in the inactive game group. They expected another surge after the children chose their second new game midway through the study. No increase in physical activity occurred, though.

...."You'd think that the kids who are playing these games would be burning more calories, but I think the nature of the games is not the same as going out and interacting. It doesn't directly encourage kids to go out and exercise," said Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has studied and written about the impact of technology on children and adults.

"Wii Fit is not made to get kids to exercise, it's to sell games. Maybe they need to design the games differently, to really get kids to move more," Small said.

Children's Hospital Colorado pediatrician Dr. Christina Suh, who has conducted research on physical activity in overweight and obese children, said it's not encouraging news in terms of using the fitness video games as a tool for tackling the increasing problem of childhood obesity......She said it's somewhat counterintuitive to recommend children get their daily physical activity from video games.

"It muddles the message pediatricians give to get outside. My feeling is if you're going to be physically active, it makes more sense to play tennis with a family member outdoors than on a video game inside. A tennis racquet and some balls would much cheaper than a video game console, too," Suh said.'

Jan White Natural Play

I was really happy to come across this UK playspace designers site and see the abundance of detail that she has provided about her experience and practice.

I especially like her piece on outdoor play for two year olds (a group that is frequently neglected).

I would highly recommend her site to anyone who is interested in the natural play and is seeking to obtain insight and knowledge about the provision of this type of activity in their own educational environments.   

Nature Whispering - Simple Ways to have Magical, Mystical Experiences in Nature

Loving the natural art ideas featured here. The whole site is worth a good look!