Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What Do Lawsuits Have in Common with Predators? « FreeRangeKids

What Do Lawsuits Have in Common with Predators? « FreeRangeKids

Similar to my last post this piece relates to an animal that's found in most Childcare Centres and educational venues. No its not the Black Dog of Depression its his friend the Pernicious Poodle of Potential Liability.
Its written by a reader of Free Range Kids, a blog maintained by Lenore Skenazy, and provides an "inside" and common sense view of the civil litigation process. Even though the reader and the process she describes related to the US legal system, the principals and ideas described are still pertinent worldwide.

Hi Readers! Here’s a really thought-provoking piece about the OTHER fear haunting parents — and schools and parks departments and congregations and day care centers and scouting groups and…you get the idea. Read on! – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: This blog is all about how the fear of injury, disease, abduction, or low IQ has turned parents into helicopters and locked our kids inside. After reading “Commandment Five: Don’t Think Like A Lawyer” in Lenore’s (utterly awesome and enlightening) book, Free Range Kids, I was prompted to write to her about a different fear: the fear of lawsuits. I am a lawyer, and today I want to help debunk the myth that our country is a collection of litigious jerks against whom we must protect ourselves diligently (a myth which persists even though most of us have never actually met one of these litigious jerks). First, I want to talk about lawsuits in general, and then I’ll talk about lawsuits and parenting.

Things to know about lawsuits in general

I am a law clerk for a judge in a trial court. “Trial court” just means we don’t handle appeals–we’re the lowest level court, which all judicial matters have to go through first. My courtroom handles a civil docket, which means we handle handle almost everything that isn’t divorce or criminal matters–this predominantly means lawsuits. I have been in this job for two years, and I have seen over 2,000 individual cases just in my courtroom alone. I also chat with the other law clerks in the other courtrooms about our most interesting cases. Frequently, we talk about the most ridiculous ones. What’s most striking to me, though, is how infrequently those cases come up. Keep in mind that each of us has approximately 1,000 cases a year, and 300 going at any one time.

In my time at court, I have seen perhaps 2 cases that were truly bunk. These cases really stick out. Of all my cases, that means that less than one percent of of them should never have been filed; one-tenth of one percent, in fact. Most of my cases have some value. And guess what? Both of these bunk cases resolved in favor of the defense. I’ll do you one better — neither were about crazy parents suing for stuff that happened (or could have happened) to their kids, nor were they brought against parents. They were about adults doing stupid things and then suing to paper over their embarrassing mistakes. Point being: the risk of a lawsuit by or against a parent is simply not that great.

The best stats I could find regarding the filing of bad lawsuits in general is here:http://users.polisci.wisc.edu/kritzer/research/rule11/rule11Jud.htm. After doing the math from these statistics, I (with help from my engineer husband) determined that in only 28 out of every 10,000 cases were sanctions imposed on lawyers for bringing a frivolous case. Once again, that’s less than 1%.

These are not perfect statistics, but it appears that they’re the best we have. They also don’t speak to the issue directly at hand (i.e., how often parents, and not just people in general, sue for ridiculous reasons), but we can probably at least accept that parents just aren’t running to lawyers every time their kid stubs a toe. Just as with all these other fears that Lenore highlights, the media hypes up the craziest cases, and the rest of us come away with the feeling that everyone is just looking for an excuse to sue. But that isn’t really the case.

Do people sue when they really have no reason to? Yes. But it’s such a tiny, fractional risk, it’s practically not worth worrying about.

If you do get sued, keep this in mind: when you finally get in front of a jury (which may not ever happen — the statistic thrown around in law school is that 94% of cases don’t ever get that far), the jury frequently assumes that the plaintiff is sue-crazy. It’s unfortunate, but people really believe that we live in an era where everyone hires an attorney for every little bump. And even if the plaintiff convinces them that their case has value, they get just enough money to handle medical bills and court costs – IF they’re lucky enough to get all that covered at all. Contrary to popular belief, plaintiffs don’t just get an arbitrary amount of money according to how much a jury thinks they deserve — they have to prove it up, and show how much money an accident has cost them. No one is getting an Italian villa, and even if a jury does try to award exorbitant damages, judges are able to reduce an unfair damage award. Furthermore, most organizations have insurance in order to defend against lawsuits, and many people who may have children in their home are already covered by homeowners insurance. So while a lawsuit is not fun, and can cause considerable expense and stress, it is also not likely to be the end of the world.

Lawsuits as they relate to parenting

I wish I could give more concrete stats about unnecessary lawsuits brought by or against parents, but they don’t exist. (Although I’m sure that at this very moment, some anal retentive lawyer is carefully picking through every single case ever filed in the United States to compile them for you.) I think we can agree that the statistics would probably follow along the same lines as the more general statistics listed above. In other words, such a tiny risk that you shouldn’t even bother to worry about it.

But what if the school/daycare/supervising parent does make a mistake, a serious one, and a lawsuit is warranted? We’re talking here not about frivolous suits, but the ones that could actually result in money awarded. Obviously, this happens – but not as frequently as people think. Please remember: (1) your child is unlikely to get injured or abducted in the first place, and (2) most people are reasonable and don’t want to be embroiled in a draining lawsuit even if they do have a really good case. To repeat: even when parents may have a perfectly good lawsuit, that doesn’t mean they’re going to go to a lawyer. I bet most of you have never met someone who was involved in one of these suits. I asked around, and NONE of my fellow law clerks (about 20 of them), NOR the Judge that I work for (who has been on the bench for over 20 years), has seen a case brought by a parent to recover for an everyday childhood accident or violence by a stranger, even ones that have merit. (I’m not including car accidents and medical malpractice – the types of things that are just as likely to injure adults.) This is despite the fact that our court encompasses a very large school district. That doesn’t mean these kinds of lawsuits don’t happen, but it does mean they don’t happen very much. Most parents just want their kids to be ok, and maybe want medical bills paid for if it has come to that; they aren’t out to make your life miserable.

As a lawyer, I need to sign off by saying that I am NOT your attorney, and none of this constitutes legal advice. But I hope it does make you feel a little bit better about the world your kids are living in. The bottom line is that people aren’t as litigious as you’d think, and lawsuits by parents for normal childhood injuries are rare.

So what can we do about this massive, unwarranted fear of lawsuits? We’d love to hear your ideas.

All the best! –Tiffany Gengelbach

Here are some ideas for helping to cut down on the fear of lawsuits:
(1) Try to spread the word that lawsuits really aren’t that common. People love to talk about our litigious society, but that really isn’t true. Most people would rather forego a completely reasonable lawsuit than be labeled “litigious” and go through the very difficult process that a lawsuit entails. While you’re at it, maybe point out that lawsuits are seriously no fun, and are extremely stressful, time-consuming, and expensive – maybe that will discourage unnecessary lawsuits!
(2) Shame the heck out of the people who bring frivolous lawsuits (as opposed to constantly suggesting that “you should sue for that!!”, which I see all the time on internet comment boards). The blog “Lowering the Bar” is a great resource for this:http://www.loweringthebar.net/
(3) Where you have the influence or power, try to get organizations to self-insure so that they aren’t subject to arbitrary rules by insurance companies. Even though you pay them to defend you against lawsuits, insurance companies are afraid of having to spend their money on an unpredictable suit even though it probably won’t ever materialize. It’s not their fault – they need to protect their business just like everyone else. Still, they are looking out for every single little thing that could cause a lawsuit, no matter how unlikely. This kind of thinking encourages fear and contributes to the feeling that a lawsuit is just a matter of time.
(4) Ask your state legislature to provide greater governmental immunity to schools for injuries.

(5) Ask your state legislature to add rules saying that parties who lose in court have to pay attorneys fees. Right now, under the “American Rule,” each party must pay his own attorneys’ fees, except in certain limited circumstances. Under the “English Rule,” the loser pays. The English Rule could cut down on filing lawsuits and encourage people to talk things out ahead of time.

(6) Don’t be afraid to apologize when you’ve made someone upset. Though you shouldn’t admit that you are liable for any damages, just connecting on a personal level can do wonders to avoid lawsuits. A simple, “I’m so sorry little Kimmie got hurt,” is often a great way to soften someone.

Can't run, can't throw - motor skills wide of the mark

Can't run, can't throw - motor skills wide of the mark
Finally a study that confirms what I've seen gradually happening for the last two decades. That's when the unholy fear of potential liability emerged and was covertly implemented by government bodies (on behalf of their insurers) under the guise of keeping our kids safe. I have featured and love the picture by Hugh Kretschmer of a mother totally wrapping her child in bubble wrap. Between that and electronic distractions its no wonder that the only thing a lot of children can or will run for is McDonalds/KFC/Hungry Jacks......Don't start me on Childhood obesity/diabetes ....

The full article can be read from the link above  

MOST children are unskilled at basic movements such as throwing, running and jumping, according to a landmark study linking NSW children's lack of fundamental movement skills with their sedentary lifestyles.

Less than half of all NSW primary school children do the recommended 60 minutes of exercise daily and this could be linked to the decline in basic movement skills.

The study leader, Louise Hardy, said without basic movement skills children were less likely to participate in sports or play with their friends, had lower fitness levels and were more prone to being overweight or obese.

And the number of children that do have these skills is on the decline, according to her study, published yesterday in the international journal Pediatrics.

''We keep emphasising the amount of time per day children spend on physical activity, but if kids don't have the capacity to engage in those physical activities it might suggest that we should be measuring other parameters, such as their ability to run, jump and throw, first,'' Dr Hardy, from the university's school of public health, said.

''Parents mistakenly believe that children naturally learn those fundamental movement skills. But children need to be taught them.'' A report into physical activity in government primary schools released last month by the Audit Office of NSW estimated 30 per cent of primary schools did not deliver two hours of planned sport each week and that students' physical activity had declined ''significantly''.

But Dr Hardy said parents are also to blame for not playing with their children. ''They should be giving their kids a ball, not a DVD.''  The study of nearly 7000 students in NSW assessed skills from year 2 through to high school. Though children should have mastered a basic sprint run, vertical jump, side gallop and leap by year 2, only 10 per cent had all four skills.

Half the students had still not mastered a sprint run by high school, while high school-aged girls also showed low competency in the object-control skills of throwing, kicking and catching. Physiological differences did not explain why boys outperformed girls in some areas because researchers assessed movement and control, not speed and strength.

''It could be that girls are not getting the opportunity to participate, and certainly if you look at school ovals it is mostly boys out playing,'' Dr Hardy said. ''Perhaps we need girl-only areas of ovals and gear set aside.''

Judy Palmer, a grandmother of three, agreed children were playing less. Her grandson, nine-year-old Alex, said he liked, ''playing inside with the Xbox''.But Mrs Palmer, from Cherrybrook, said parents had to make time to play with their children

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The David Suzuki Foundation's educational guide gets kids outside exploring | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation

The David Suzuki Foundation's educational guide gets kids outside exploring | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation

The full article can be read from the link above 

Imagine the children in your life learning about the crucial role of pollinators, then planting a bee-friendly garden to help conserve them. Or picture them mapping their neighbourhoods with their families, then making a plan to bike and walk together rather than drive.

Thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation's Connecting With Nature educational resource guide, children across Canada will soon be doing these and many other inspiring activities. It's all part of our plan to get kids outside exploring their connections to nature!

Studies have shown time and again that spending time in nature makes children more creative, better problem solvers, and physically healthier. Children have an innate affinity to nature, and we at the Foundation want to use it to inspire them to be environmental stewards of the future.

Each of the 16 lesson plans in this guide are designed to get kids outside exploring the environment and their place within it. While investigating concepts like waste, energy, and biodiversity though fun and hands-on activities, they'll learn about nature's value, limits, and interconnections. Children (and educators too!) will be empowered to make decisions and take actions that benefit the planet.

Produced in partnership with the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University, the guide is geared towards Grades 4 to 6. Lessons are aligned with the Ontario curriculum, but are relevant to educators across Canada. Each one includes step-by-step directions, as well as reflection questions, optional activities for the classroom and community, and helpful resources.

Lessons include:
Living within the limits of nature
In brief: students pack a backpack in preparation for a nature hike. As the hike progresses, students sort through their packs to determine what they really needed for the hike and what they didn't. They begin to see how consumerism is driving us to live beyond the limits of nature.

What's inside your personal care products?
In brief: students bring personal care products to class and analyze their ingredients, then make their own toxin-free moisturizer and toothpaste to take home. By learning to read labels and making healthier lifestyle choices, students and their families can reduce exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Greenbelt game show
In brief: students play a question-and-answer game focused on greenbelts, protected natural spaces that wrap around urban areas. Students learn how greenbelts help protect ecosystems and limit urban sprawl, ensuring our access to clean air and water for generations to come.

Visit the site for more information or to download a free copy of Connecting With Nature. And get the kids in your life outside and inspired!

Last Child On The Farm (Guest Post) « Common Sense Agriculture's Blog

Last Child On The Farm (Guest Post) « Common Sense Agriculture's Blog

The full article can be read from the link above 

"Whenever I pass a freshly plowed field it gives me the same thrill as an unopened book–full of potential, surprise, and pleasure. And just like that book beckons me to peek beneath its cover, the sight of that rich, dark earth ready for planting beckons me to curl my feet into the freshly tilled layers and feel its coolness between my toes.
My connection to farming is a gift I cherish from my childhood spent on a dairy surrounded by Holstein dairy cows, an assortment of dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional jack-rabbit my father found orphaned while cutting alfalfa. For me, there was no more peaceful place on the planet than lying on a bale of freshly bound hay, inhaling the heady aroma of alfalfa, while staring up at a sky so blue it made my eyes squint.
One of my favorite places in the dead of summer was the peach orchard. I remember that first peach of the season. How my fingers sunk into the soft flesh when I plucked it from the branch. With the first bite, peach juice made race tracks down my arm. Nothing ever tasted as good. Like a piece of heaven to my taste buds.
We didn’t have much, but neither did anyone else we knew. I wore hand-me-downs. We canned most of our fruits and vegetables. Fresh, clean air and the farm provided a plentiful playground. I scampered through fields and hay barns. I cuddled newborn kittens with their eyes sealed shut. I roamed sweltering orchards while my mother picked peaches.
At our house, milk didn’t just materialize from the store. It came from the milk tank after the cows were herded to the milking parlor, washed, milked and turned back to the pasture. Milk came from an abundance of hard work before it arrived at our table.
Perhaps I view my childhood through rose-colored glasses. And certainly kids raised in urban areas had experiences I didn’t, but the difference is, back then the majority of kids who didn’t live on farms had family or friends who did, and they had the opportunity to visit them. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, makes this same comment in his book. He said that baby boomers may be the last generation of Americans to share an intimate and familial attachment to the land and water.
My parents sold the dairy when I was ten, but farming stayed with me. My husband and I bought land, planted an orchard from the ground up and currently grow table olives. We raised our children on a farm, and I’ve worked as a freelance photojournalist specializing in agriculture for the past 15 years.
Every day I become more aware of the limited exposure children have to farming. Statistics show the U.S. farm population is dwindling, and 40 percent of the farmers in this country are 55 or older. I see this every day when I’m interviewing farmers, and I wonder who will raise our food when they’re gone? What happens if today’s youth is not inspired to farm?
Ultimately, the answer begins and ends with parents. Our children need to be inspired to farm. They need hands-on time with agriculture. They need to see, touch, taste, smell and hear farming in all its noisy, dirty, sweaty, smelly glory. Along with the hundreds of thousands of college graduates going into medicine, law and business, we need equal numbers of agriculture graduates ready, willing and eager to farm.
I believe the best way to achieve this is by providing children, at a young age, with frequent exposure to farming. Children need to know how food is produced, and they need to read books with agriculture themes. Last Child in the Woods lists 100 actions parents can take to get children into nature. One of his suggestions is to take them to U-Pick farms or join a local co-op where the kids are involved from planting to harvesting. Every child should know the joy of whiling away a warm summer afternoon in a barn, an owl snoozing in the rafters and a litter of newborn kittens sandwiched between bales of hay."

Kathy Coatney has worked as a freelance photojournalist for 15 years, starting in parenting magazines, then fly fishing and finally specializing in agriculture. Her latest project is the Farmer Guy/Gal series of children’s picture books with an agriculture theme.

“Dr. Park, I presume?” « City Parks Blog

“Dr. Park, I presume?” « City Parks Blog

The full article can be read from the link above
The growing prevalence of obesity and illnesses related to inactivity underscores the importance of cooperation between the medical community and parks departments. This idea was promoted recently by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, which stresses the role of the built environment in improving public health.
Some parks departments have reached out to inactive people by providing financial incentives or prizes for participation in parks and recreation programs. The Kids in Parks program in Asheville, North Carolina, offers prizes like walking sticks, nature journals, and backpacks for kids who complete trail hikes and log them online. Insurance companies have joined in – the Senior Dimensions Fit for Life Club, a program of the Health Plan of Nevada, provides free fitness programs at more than 30 park facilities in southern Nevada as part of coverage. But what do you do if you already have a great park and recreation system but a persistently unhealthy population? The solution might be a doctor’s intervention.

One physician-led program, called 
Recreation Rx, offers prescriptions that can be redeemed for free community recreation services in the San Diego area. Dr. R. Christopher Searles worked with the Chula Vista recreation director to identify existing programs for which fees could be waived and strategies to offer more free programs with existing staff and space. The program has few expenses other than the printing of prescription pads.Park prescription programs combine a written prescription for increased activity with guidance aimed at eliminating common barriers to outdoor exercise, such as lack of information about facilities or inability to pay for recreation programs. Such initiatives are growing in prominence across the country.
As it turns out, appropriate design of the prescription pads is critical to the success of the program. Dr. Searles noticed early on in the program that the prescriptions were underused, so he supplied participating clinics with wall dispensers so that the pads could be displayed more prominently. Posters were put up in the waiting room to prompt patients to ask about the program. Dr. Searles regularly meets with the recreation director to update the available activities, customizing the prescription forms for season and age range.
The prescription pads tend to be colorful, friendly, and motivational, but also must appear official if they are to be taken seriously. One program initially had patients sign the prescription along with their doctor, but later decided to only have the doctor sign the form so as to convey a greater sense of authority and significance. Some pads have suggestions of different ways to get active outdoors and for gradually increasing exercise frequency, and some programs offer prescription forms in different languages.
Doctors play an important role in tracking the programs to better understand how their recommendations are being put into action. Tracking success is not too difficult when the prescriptions are submitted as vouchers for programs. Dr. Searles found that during a three-month period, 1,304 prescriptions were dispensed and 650 were redeemed at recreation and aquatic centers. The Chicago Exercise Prescription Fitness Center Waiver, started in 2003, offers prescriptions to patients with obesity-related illnesses that can be redeemed for a free 12-week fitness center membership at any of 66 parks in Chicago. Patients must return to their doctors to renew their prescription between sessions.
Prescription Trails, a program of New Mexico Health Care Takes on Diabetes and the Albuquerque Alliance for Active Living, is focused on ensuring that patients can easily locate and access a well-maintained trail. A Parks Evaluation Committee has identified three transit-friendly, wheelchair-accessible parks for each zip code in participating communities. Volunteers evaluated local trail loops, allowing doctors to provide booklets of approved parks accompanied with ratings, amenities, and directions. Trails are periodically reviewed, and the program has worked with the city to install distance markers and make sidewalk improvements.
Portland Rx Play, which this month expanded to 23 park and recreation facilities and 24 pediatric clinics, has doctors provide the contact information of an unhealthy patient to parks and recreation staff. The goal of the physician is to create a “warm handoff” to the recreation center staff, who then take over to help identify activities that might be of interest at a nearby community center, such as karate, yoga, and “active gaming” like Wii or Dance Dance Revolution. The children involved in the program will be part of an Oregon State University study comparing the activity levels of participants with another group who are advised to exercise but not given any structured programming.
The American College of Sports Medicine has been at the forefront of this effort in the medical community, developing a program called Exercise is Medicine. It encourages doctors to include a standardized exercise evaluation with every visit and make exercise prescriptions. It is already in use by over 400 medical organizations. But is not focused specifically on encouraging park use, which raises the question of how park departments can ensure that free, public park facilities remain valuable elements of exercise prescription programs. We’ll look at some programs led by parks departments in part two of this article, coming soon

How to overcome our 'nature deficit' | Courier-Post | courierpostonline.com

How to overcome our 'nature deficit' | Courier-Post | courierpostonline.com

The full article can be read from the link above 

"Just the other day, around the bend of a sandy road at the edge of the Pine Barrens, a city boy maybe 10 years old discovered something extraordinary. There is more than one kind of tree. Jeanne Gural was there to witness the moment, the delight in the boy’s eyes as they stood there in the midst of wild things at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford. The executive director who kayaks every evening after work could well believe the boy meant it.

“Things that you and I take for granted, we can’t take these things for granted,” said Gural, as she gazed over tea-tinted waters and listened to green frogs calling to each other in the late afternoon heat. “There are children who look at this and are simply afraid of nature. We see beauty and they see fear. We can’t have that.”

Kids aren’t the only ones who walk the earth while feeling disconnected to it. Adults are suffering from nature-deficit, too. And it’s not only bad for human beings; it’s bad for our habitat.

That’s the contention of Richard Louv, author of the international bestsellers, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” and, most recently, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age.”  Devoured by environmentalists and nature-lovers alike, Louv’s books make the case for restoring people’s connections to the natural world, even if only in their backyards. Also, he argues, society is starting to realize it has lost something precious, something worth fighting for.

There are two urgent reasons for that connection, he said, during a recent phone interview from Portland, Ore., where he was to deliver a talk that evening at the Biomimicry Institute. “One is, we only protect something we love. We only love what we can know. So part of this has to do with reducing the destructiveness that human beings do to nature,” Louv said.

“The other part of this is preserving our own humanity. When we are disconnected from nature, we begin to disconnect from our own humanity, our assets, our sense of wonder, our sense of awe, our ability to feel fully alive. “We don’t want to do either of those things. By reconnecting with nature, whether we are 8, 18 or 80, we can help preserve nature around us and, in fact, create more of it. We can also help preserve and create more of our own sense of humanity and ability to feel alive.”

In recent years, he has noticed a shift in thinking as he travels around the country delivering talks and discussing solutions with others. He calls it the New Nature Movement.  “Overall, there’s a growing awareness that our relationship with nature has something to do with our health and our well-being — our psychological health, our physical health and our ability to think and create,” said Louv.

“I’ve seen a lot of evidence of that … There are more stories every day about schools that are doing things to get their kids outdoors, and families that are creating nature clubs. There’s more research now than there was a few years ago, thankfully, and there’s more political awareness of its importance.”

A sea change in thinking can’t come quickly enough for some folks. Since 1967, Moorestown Children’s School has offered lots of outdoor time for its small charges, who range from infants to kindergarteners, and up to age 9 in the summer months when their elder siblings join them. The 11-acre farm has a barn with horses, chickens and a 12-year-old gray tabby named Kito. Years ago, kids were allowed to dip their toes in the little stream that trickled through the property, though it’s off-limits now.

Last year, a state inspector told director Sue Maloney that she needed to trim her trees. All limbs lower than 7 feet off the ground had to go if she wanted to keep the center’s license. At first blush, it appeared she was in violation of the regulation on trees in children’s play areas. It’s a perfectly reasonable rule, Maloney still believes, when it’s applied as it was intended to trees near swing sets, slides and jungle gyms.

Trouble was, her school’s play area included just about the whole property. She has a lot of trees. And those trees happen to be an integral part of her school’s curriculum. So she poured over the regulations, elicited advice from a volunteer lawyer and dug in her heels.“When you cut the limbs of a 50-foot tree, you can’t just glue them back on when someone says, ‘Oh, never mind,’ ” said Maloney, whose license was eventually renewed with tree limbs intact.

Besides, her school’s philosophy was centered on the idea that “quality outdoor time benefits children’s academic learning and social interactions,” she said. It was something she and her staffers learned by observing “that children who spent time outside were more inquisitive, exhibited better self-regulation and were more efficient learners.”

That belief is shared by Deanna Fahey, the Mount Holly mother of 21-month-old Mae. A former science teacher now working on a master’s degree on teaching biological sciences, the 43-year-old has launched a website and a campaign on Change.org to give children more access to natural play areas and outdoor play time during the school day. She, too, was inspired by Louv’s work.

“The more I research that, the more I get disappointed, disgusted almost, at the lack of time that kids have outside due to technology and fear and all that,” said Fahey, who takes her toddler on weekend hikes in state parks and twice-daily jaunts to play outside.

“There are a lot of schools incorporating some form of outdoor play. If parents are educated or informed about these options, I think they would be more inclined to really push for that option in their school system.”
Schools that take away recess time are doing a disservice to children, she said. Better are schools that incorporate curriculum into outdoor play.“Those kids need that outdoor time playing to help them to learn better,” Fahey said. “If you take it away, it’s actually not healthy. You can add all the curriculum time you want, and it’s not going to help.”

At 59, Gina Carola of West Deptford is working to accomplish her life’s goal. She wants to visit every national park in the country. “That’s my mission, to see them all before I die,” said Carola, a software developer who spends eight hours a day cooped up in an office. “I’ve been to over 30. Next month, I’m going to Carlsbad Caverns (in New Mexico) and Guadalupe Mountains (in west Texas).”

“When you go out into a park, it renews your spirit,” said Carola. “Especially if you’ve been to one you’ve never seen. You realize just how beautiful the planet is . . . I’ll be gone for 12 days and I’ll completely forget my job. I’ll have to write my password down because I won’t remember it.”

She has slept out in the open, beneath the stars in the Grand Canyon and hiked a 1,000-year-old Inca trail in the Andes. She has vivid memories of driving into the mountains of Idaho and Montana, turning off the air-conditioning, and rolling down the windows to breathe in the intoxicating scent of pine trees. The smell was so overpowering, she said, “it hit us like a ton of bricks.”

Twenty-five years ago, she joined the Sierra Club, lured by its outdoor hikes and activities. She has since become chairwoman of the club’s West Jersey section, and now advocates to protect the environment. “Some people would still rather sit on the couch and watch TV,” said Carola. “I don’t think people understand how important it is to get the sun on your face.”

If more people did, she thinks, they might be more inclined to vote with the environment in mind. “They need to see nature,” Carola said, “and they need to see what we’re doing to it.”
Gural, the wildlife refuge director, has noticed another symptom of adult disconnection with nature. As South Jersey’s only wildlife hospital, Woodford receives many concerned calls about “abandoned” baby animals.
Mother deer, mother rabbits, mother birds — they all leave their babies “parked” while they search for food. Rabbits return to the nest just twice a day to feed their young. Most likely, Gural said, those babies are just fine. To be sure, she tells callers, gently lay yarn or string in a star pattern over the nest and come back to check it. If it’s been disturbed within 24 hours, the babies haven’t been abandoned. Leave them be.

And stop killing the snakes that slither into your basements, garages and backyards, she pleads. Fewer snakes mean more rodents, more deer ticks, more Lyme disease. Instead, leave them alone, or remove them with a pillow case or a bucket, or call in a professional and let them go. There is only one venomous species in New Jersey, the timber rattlesnake, and it’s endangered. But all play a vital role in the balance of nature.
“People are so disconnected with the natural world,” said Gural. “They think they need to control everything that comes into their yard.”
In “The Nature Principle,” Louv offers a solution. Any person can make a difference, starting with their own backyard. From there, it can spread. Families can start nature clubs. “Citizen naturalists” can advocate for policy changes. Schools can create gardens and natural play spaces. Neighborhoods can create community gardens and “button parks.” “We have to find new ways to connect with nature,” said Louv. “That time is going to return.”

Can kids still go unplugged in the summer? - CBS News

Can kids still go unplugged in the summer? - CBS News

(CBS News) Leaving home for camp is a rite of passage for children everywhere, and for kids at one camp, leaving home also means leaving all gadgets behind.

On a beautiful summer morning, Emily Crites is outside, learning about Milkweed. "A lot of bugs and butterflies like to drink and eat this type of plant," Crites says. Lucas Utterwulghe is building a fort.
"It's good to get away from the TV for a little bit," Utterwulghe says. And Sophia Gunther, is at the pond.
"It's has lots of nature and you get to play in the mud," Gunther says.

At least one day-camp in Chevy Chase, Maryland, is old school -- no electronics allowed, because if they were home, these kids all know what they would be doing. "I probably would be watching TV," Crites says.
"Playing Games. Playing my I-touch," Utterwulghe says. "Watching TV...that's not really good," Gunther says.

The average American child now spends 53 hours a week using technology. The time kids spend outside has dropped 16 percent just in the last five years."The more high-tech our lives become the more nature we need," says Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods." Louv says a generation of children is at risk of growing up nature-deficient. "Yes, technology gives us things. Yes, we get certain skills from that, but we also get certain skills from being outside in nature," Louv says.

Some of the skills learned outdoors include problem-solving, creativity, and leadership. That is why parents like Alice Crites send their kids back, year after year. "They love it. They love being in the mud. They love to be outdoors. They love to be walking, and come across a deer," Alice Crites says. 

Over the course of the summer, more than a thousand young campers will spend time out-of-doors in a program run by the Audubon Society. The mud washes off, but the experience, sticks.

Arianna Huffington: She Was Right

Arianna Huffington: She Was Right

“By helping young children know and relate to the soul-making aspects of the natural world, we connect them to enduring sources of strength, wonder and joy”
Rachel Carson, 1956, “Help your child to wonder”

The full article can be read from the link above

"Fifty years ago, a marine biologist named Rachel Carson began publishing a series of articles in The New Yorker, sounding the alarm about the dangers of exposure to chemicals and the failure of the chemical industry and government regulators to protect people from those dangers. Later collected in the book Silent Spring, Carson's prescient insights are the subject of an anniversary feature this week by HuffPost's environmental reporter Lynne Peeples. She delivers not only a tribute to Carson but a reminder that her work is more relevant than ever.

Despite Carson's warnings, our leaders are still not doing nearly enough to regulate the potentially harmful chemicals we're exposed to every day. As Lynne notes, more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in our country have never been fully tested, so we don't even know how damaging they might be to humans or to the environment. And as Harvard Medical School's Eric Chivian explains, when it comes to determining if a chemical is dangerous, the U.S. does not put the burden of proof on those who introduce it; that burden is on the watchdogs to prove the danger, after the substance has already been introduced. Which is to say, we have it backward. We'd rather perform autopsies than biopsies. And it's yet another instance in which we're failing to keep up with the rest of the world.

Our low level of concern and urgency is especially shocking when you consider the high level of potential to harm our most precious resource, our children. Decades after Carson wrote in Silent Spring that harm from chemical exposures begins in the womb, scientists learned she was right. We now know that early exposure to toxic chemicals can impact a child for his entire life, even if the effects take decades to manifest. Even though Carson's key points have been widely affirmed by the scientific community, the pace of progress has been remarkably -- unacceptably -- slow, in large part because, as one expert tells Lynne Peeples, "things are far more complicated chemically than they were in Carson's time." And thus, harder to regulate.

Meanwhile, we are playing a dangerous game of catch-up. Just this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that any level of lead in a child's bloodstream is dangerous and can cause brain damage, no matter how small the amount. Today, "more American school children die of cancer than from any other disease" -- yet another quote from Carson that remains tragically true today.

For some, the signature image that shows how real the threat is to our environment is the disappearing snowcap atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. For me, it's the image of millions of kids suffering from asthma caused by the explosion of toxins in our environment, kids who are afraid to go out and play without bringing along their inhalers. But instead of a hair-on-fire response, our approach has been more like wait-and-see.

By highlighting Carson's work, Lynne Peeples reminds us that when it comes to the explosion of chemicals in our world, tomorrow is today. And what we do today will deeply affect our tomorrows -- and the tomorrows of our children.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What’s Black and Blue and Happy All Over? Ask Your Child’s Doctor « FreeRangeKids

What’s Black and Blue and Happy All Over? Ask Your Child’s Doctor « FreeRangeKids

Love this piece from Lenore at Free Range Kids. It has a direct correlation to the type of, and venue for, childrens' play currently, i.e. sitting in front of a screen inside. Regardless of the fact that I know recent trends have taken a toll on childrens' play I was still shocked? at how such changes have flow on effects even for large multinational chemical companies. If you like this piece, I would recommend you subscribe to Free Range Kids.

"Hi Folks — I love this exchange on Facebook about kids and bruises! Wrote one mom:

I brought my 5 year old son to the dentist yesterday and she was amazed to
see that he has scratches and bruises. She said she never really sees those kinds of small injuries on kids nowadays because they play inside all day. What is happening to childhood in this country that seeing a scratch or small bruise on a 5 year olds shins is something out of the ordinary? When I was a kid my knees were always scraped and my shins were always bruised because that was just part of playing outside.

Wrote another:
I hate to admit this, making myself look neurotic, but when my son was 2, when he really started getting brave, his little legs were covered in bruises/knots/you name it. He had a few on his arms, but his legs looked (to me) awful, and I obsessed myself into thinking something must be terribly wrong–surely he had some kind of bleeding issue! A blood disorder! I finally got up the nerve to take him to the pediatrician (had to steel myself for the inevitable bad news, of course), and she looked at him, and looked at me, and said, “He has busy little two-year-old boy legs, and if he’s lucky you’re going to let them stay that way.” She also advised that I chill out before I drive us both (all?) crazy. Best advice I’ve ever gotten–and he is, to this day, covered in bruises and scratches and who knows what, because he rides his bike and jumps off everything he sees, and thank goodness he can. – Paula Kiihnl King

Wrote me:
This reminds me of the time I spoke to an advertising exec at Tide and he said kids’ clothes aren’t getting that dirty anymore. Bad for laundry detergent, bad for kids! – L

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

PlayPumps Provide Water and Fun -- National Geographic Kids

PlayPumps Provide Water and Fun -- National Geographic Kids

I came across this article whilst researching water pumps and thought what a novel idea. Then I read the article and gained additional insight from those websites and blogs linked below. I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but in Australia we really have it good. Water is literally on tap, available to anyone, anywhere for free.
If you want further information try Playpumps or Water for the People. If you want to know how hard it is to create and maintain a humanitarian project like this try Aidwatcher and Owen in Malawi and State of the planet.
The full article can be read from the link above

"For kids in many rural parts of Africa, the colorful PlayPump is the first playground equipment they’ve ever seen. When they give a push and jump onboard for their first ride, smiles of wonder break out on their faces.

The fun of whirling in a circle is just part of the amazement. This incredible invention doesn’t just change their playtime, it changes their lives.As the merry-go-round spins, it pumps clean water up from deep underground and stores it in a huge tank. People are welcome to come and help themselves to the water.

In rural Africa, clean water is a luxury. Most people don’t have plumbing in their homes. Instead, they often must walk long distances to wells and haul heavy containers of water back.

Patricia Molope, 17, explains that before her South African village got a PlayPump, people would pay a taxi driver to take them to a far-off well. “Sometimes the taxi drivers were busy, and we would have to go without bathing in order to save our water. It was too far to walk there. But now we have our own clean water in our village, and life is better.”

The exhausting chore of carrying water traditionally falls to women and girls. Hauling water for miles—and hours—each day is such a big job, it sometimes prevents girls from being able to attend school.

Thanks to the PlayPump, getting water is quick and easy—and even boys join in. The pumps have become a center of social activity where kids and adults gather to visit while collecting water.

Two sides of each tank carry educational messages that remind people about good health practices like battling germs through hand-washing. The other two sides carry advertisements, which help pay for the pump's upkeep.
So far, more than 800 PlayPumps are operating in schools and communities in four African countries, providing water for almost two million people. The pumps are made by a South African company called Outdoor Fabrication and Steelworks. Another company, Roundabout Outdoor, trains local teams who maintain the pumps. Each system costs U.S. $14,000.

Twelve-year-old Siyabulisiwe Khumalo lives in a South African community called Diepsloot. She says, “I have seen many kinds of water pumps where I grew up in the farmlands, but never one that stores the water. When I grow up, I want to be an inventor so I can invent clever things like the PlayPump that will help my community.”
Fast Facts:
* Many toilets use more water in one flush than most rural families in Africa have for one day of cleaning, cooking, drinking, and bathing.
* The average distance an African villager must walk to a water source is five miles (eight kilometers).
*A five-gallon (19-liter) container can weigh about 40 pounds (18 kilograms), and many women and girls suffer injuries carrying so much weight every day.
* A child dies somewhere in the world every 15 seconds from a water-borne illness."

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Peru's ambitious laptop program gets mixed grades

Really sad.  If you've read my prior postings you would realise that I'm really dubious about the blind utilisation of tech for tech's sake in Australian schools. However in this instance, with this Project, I did hope (I was still dubious about the research and reasoning behind the project ) that it would be of benefit to a generation who may be able to utilise it to elevate themselves and their country out of the poverty cycle. How strange that nearly the exact problems are also being suffered in Australian schools because of the similar,"introduce the technology and be damned attitude". If your only reason for doing something is to appear to be doing something  -DON'T DO IT! ". Stop, plan, consult, don't allow panicked political imperative create greater problems.   

The full article can be read from the link above

"Peru's equipping of more than 800,000 public schoolchildren in this rugged Andean nation with low-cost laptops ranks among the world's most ambitious efforts to leverage digital technology in the fight against poverty.

Yet five years in, there are serious doubts about whether the largest single deployment in the One Laptop Per Child ......was worth the more than $200 million that Peru's government spent.

Ill-prepared rural teachers and administrators were too often unable to fathom much less teach with the machines, software bugs didn't get fixed, Internet access was almost universally absent and cultural disconnects kept kids from benefitting from the machines.

"In essence, what we did was deliver the computers without preparing the teachers," said Sandro Marcone, the Peruvian education official who now runs the program.

He believes the missteps may have actually widened the gap between children able to benefit from the computers and those ill-equipped to do so, he says, in a country whose public education system is rated among the world's most deficient.

....OLPC laptops, which are rugged and energy efficient and run an open-source variant of the Linux operating system, are in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mongolia and Haiti, and even in the United States and Australia. Uruguay, a compact South American nation of 3.5 million people, is the only country that has fully embraced the concept and given every elementary school child and teacher an XO laptop, as the machines are called. No country, however, bought nearly as many as Peru.

"It's a really great idea," said Jeff Patzer, a software engineer with a degree from the University of California at Berkeley ....... "It's just seems like there was some stuff that wasn't thought through quite enough."

...."There is little solid evidence regarding the effectiveness of this program," they said in a study sharply critical of the overall OLPC initiative that was based on a 15-month study at 319 schools in small, rural Peruvian communities that got laptops......"The magical thinking that mere technology is enough to spur change, to improve learning, is what this study categorically disproves," co-author Eugenio Severin of Chile told The Associated Press.....The study found no increased math or language skills, no improvement in classroom instruction quality, no boost in time spent on homework, no improvement in reading habits.
.....On the positive side, the "dramatic increase in access to computers" accelerated by about six months students' abstract reasoning, verbal fluency and speed in processing information, the report said.

...A study in Ethiopian schools by Dutch researchers from the University of Groningen, published last year in the journal Computers and Education, similarly found that OLPC laptops improved abstract reasoning.
The teachers in those schools had received extensive training in the laptops, which the researchers said introduced an "information-rich novelty" into an environment previously starved for learning material.....

Saturday, 7 July 2012

What Gives You Hope These Days?

What Gives You Hope These Days?

A fantastic and hopeful article by Eric Utne, the founder of Utne Reader. I have included my highlights below.

The full article can be read from the link above

"As I’ve said in this column before, I’m afraid it may be too late to avoid the devastating effects of global climate change......This makes me rather morose from time to time. Seeing the chatty moms and bouncy kids gathered at the foot of my driveway every morning, waiting for the school bus, hits me hard—will they be able to do this a few years from now? Will anybody? Or will the cascading effects of climate disruption turn such touching scenes into distant memories?

Fortunately, just when I get the bleakest, I tend to remember the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

So I ask myself, who’s planting the world of tomorrow today? Then I start noticing that there are a lot of people doing very positive things to help us make it through the Great Disruption...

Image by Anuradha Sengupta
licensed under Creative Commons.

At the top of my list is Richard Louv, the longtime San Diego newspaperman and author who wrote the best-selling book, The Last Child in the Woods. I recently met Louv while he was on tour promoting his latest and possibly best book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. In the book Louv argues that, “the time has come for us all to re-envision a future that puts aside scenarios of environmental and social apocalypse and instead taps into the restorative powers of the natural world.” ..... Louv offers his vision of what he calls a “new nature movement.” He writes:

Imagine a world in which all children grow up with a deep understanding of the life around them, where all of us know the animals and plants in our own backyards ... where we feel more alive. We seek a newer world where we not only conserve nature but create it where we live, work, learn, and play. Where yards and open spaces are alive with native species. Where bird migration routes are healed by human care ... where not only public land but private property, voluntarily, garden to garden to garden, is transformed, by us, into butterfly zones and then, across the country, into a homegrown, (coast to coast) national park ... where cities become incubators of bio-diversity ... where pediatricians prescribe nature ... where hospitals and prisons offer gardens that heal ... where cities produce their own energy and much of their own food. Where empty lots become community gardens ... where developers [transform] aging shopping malls into ecovillages ... where streams in cities and countryside are restored—unearthed to the daylight—their natural curves and life restored. A newer world where the point of education is not rote and drill, but wonder and awe ... where teachers take their students on field trips to nearby woods and canyons and streams and shores ... where natural history becomes as important as human history to who we are ... where children experience the joy of being in nature before they learn of its loss ... where, as a species, we no longer feel so all alone. Imagine a world in which our days are lived in the arms of mother nature, of the land and sky, water and soil, wind and sea; a newer world we seek and to which we return.

Sign me up."

Sunday, 1 July 2012

What are these tablets good for?

Are you frickin' serious. Now after all the hoopla, Now after after all the funds have been spent, Now after all the seriously heavily laden with small print contracts have been signed with the corporations (rhymes with Snapple), Now after all the parents have scrimped and saved to get their children the latest electronic 
doodads (which they've been told are essential for their child's future learning)....... Someone in government says..... maybe they're not so essential, maybe teaching face to face doesn't alienate and isolate the children, maybe we're introducing them to computers to early.......maybe now we've altered the syllabus and committed our schools and children and economics to the introduction of these devices to children of this age and younger....maybe we should give it some...any....even a little bit of thought! 

The full article can be read from the link above

"Parents are pressuring schools into buying iPads for the classroom, despite a lack of evidence about their educational benefit, no guidelines for teaching with them, and confusion about the best apps to use.

Schools across the state are purchasing ''significant'' numbers of iPads without any real idea of their true value in the classroom, a NSW Department of Education study has found. The department is now playing catch-up, conducting research trials in public schools to better understand the educational benefits of the devices.

''This is uncharted territory and we've gone in like a bull at a gate,'' said Kristy Goodwin, who is evaluating the trials for the department. In many cases, parents are raising thousands of dollars to buy the devices for schools. The department does not have any data on how many schools have implemented iPads, and has not supplied guidelines for their use.

''Parent bodies are fund-raising to provide these resources and the research is trying to keep up,'' Dr Goodwin said. ''Parents are really driving the technology use in schools; they obviously see what their children are capable of doing [with iPads].''  REALLY? My experience is that parents generally defer to the educators opinion (or in this case the opinion forced on the educators by the Dept of ED).

Three Sydney primary schools involving 90 children and five teachers participated in the first trial last year. Teachers found the iPads enhanced learning, as students were more engaged, more motivated, better able to collaborate and could personalise their learning.

However, serious concerns emerged about the quality of educational apps available. Three-quarters of the top 100-selling educational apps on iTunes are ''drill and skill'', encouraging rote memorisation of facts, which is useful for spelling and maths.

But teachers involved in the trial found ''content creation'' apps had much greater educational benefits, because they fostered ''higher order thinking'' in students and enabled them to demonstrate what they had learnt.

''The department has concerns about the quality of some of the resources and apps currently available for students to use,'' a department spokesman said. ''Schools are currently using iPad technology to assess their educational relevance.''  That's like saying we're going to get these children to smoke so we can assess what what effect it will have on their future health. There are strict protocols for the introduction of any product to the market. Why should the idea of introducing the product to a tender age group be any different.

Dr Goodwin recommended the department establish criteria to help teachers select the best educational apps, and said there was a ''great, dire need'' for apps that were not ''drill and skill'' or games.

The department is conducting a second iPad trial to assess how different apps affect learning, what impact iPads have on teaching, and how iPads can assist special needs students. One high school, two primary schools and a special needs class are participating in this trial.

Parents will continue to have to pay out of their own pockets if they want their children using iPads at school, because the department has ''no current plans'' to introduce the devices.

In contrast, the Catholic Education Office estimates at least 60 per cent of its Sydney primary schools are using the devices, partly funded from school budgets and partly from parent fund-raising. It has just released a Mobile Learning Course for its teachers to inform their use of iPads.

The director of knowledge management and information and communications technology for the Sydney archdiocese, Doug Ashleigh, said he was ''a little bit concerned'' that the rapid uptake of iPads had outpaced understanding of how to best use them in the classroom.

''Many students have these devices at home, but when they bring them into the classroom, unless the leader in the classroom thinks about how they're going to use these … in the learning pedagogy, they won't be used as effectively.''
Parents at Banksmeadow primary were so impressed by the results of the initial iPad trial last year that they raised $15,000 to purchase 24 iPads for the school. But the principal, Cathy Lucantonio, warned the technology was not for every school.

''You really do have to be clear about what you're using them in teaching and learning, otherwise it's a waste of money,'' she said.