Growing Movement to Get Kids Outdoors Includes <em>Where the Wild Things Are</em>

We want to get kids outside, but who should lead the way: teachers, parents or kids themselves? Deciding the best approach for reengaging kids with nature means knowing where the problem stems from.
03/18/2010 05:12am ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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We want to get kids outside. But who is the best to approach: teachers, parents or kids themselves?

This October is filled with various efforts that can help us decide.

This past Tuesday was "No Child Left Inside" Day, a new part of the annual Earth Science week. The day focused on outdoor lesson plans and online offerings to aid teachers in their quest to foster the next generation of outdoor explorers. But targeting teachers also means targeting Congress. At least that's the thought behind "No Child Left Inside". The name may sound familiar because a coalition of concerned organizations bound together to create new environmental education legislation to counter the "No Child Left Behind" Act, which restricted outdoor learning and environmental education. The "No Child Left Inside" Act tries to incentivize experiential education instead of focusing on the test-driven model. "No Child Left Inside" Day is an extension of their efforts.

The official release date of "Where the Wild Things Are" is October 16th, and I don't know about you, but I will be first in line. In their efforts to get kids outside, the National Wildlife Federation has joined up with Warner Brothers for their "Be Out There!" campaign, hoping that this movie will be their ticket to reaching another demographic--Parents. According to the Be Out There! publicity, kids don't even know what they've lost, and it's up to the parents to make them aware. The goal of the campaign is to educate over 20 million moms and dads in the next three years. Most adults will recognize "Where the Wild Things Are" as one of their favorite books from when they were kids, and be moved into a state of nostalgia. It's brilliant because it evokes that feeling of youth that parents want--freedom, wild, animals, adventure -- to instill in their children as well.

Blame it on the Tetons to actually let kids share their opinions. Maybe the kids will tell us what society is doing wrong and why they prefer television over camping. Over the next three days, October 15th-18th, youth from all 48 Wyoming school districts are convening for the Wyoming Youth Congress on Children & Nature through the Teton Science School. The conference focuses on the children of Wyoming and how to keep them in touch with their "outer" youth. The Congress has a touchingly local approach, allowing kids to share their concerns and then create an "Action Plan" for implementing projects and reporting back on success. Their findings will be reported to the Governor's office and the State Department of Education.

Deciding the best approach for reengaging kids with nature means knowing where the problem is coming from. Are parents to blame? Teachers? The government? The entertainment industry? Kids themselves? Since there is no clear answer, hopefully the sum of these approaches will be more powerful than their individual parts. In any event, it's exciting to see so many different organizations, from local efforts to Hollywood blockbusters acknowledging the issue and striving to change. (And these projects are just the tip of the melting iceberg in terms of the growing Children and Nature Network.)

This fall, look out for active kids in the wilds near you.