The first Earth day was in April of 1970, at the peak of “hippie-ness”, anti-war protests and environmental awareness that was sparked by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962.
Today, for some, Earth Day has become another day to go to a music festival and wear a tie-dye. For others it is about writing to your Congressman or Senator about legislation that should be passed to help save us from ourselves.
For us it is about sharing the simple things we do every day as a family to help minimize our impact on the Earth, for example, turning an empty liquid laundry detergent bottle into a watering can by putting holes in the lid to pour and one just above the handle to vent it.
Our outdoor playgroup, Mudpie Magic, convened today on Ridge Way Farm to plant sugar snap pea tee-pees, learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned birds from the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia and run free through the fields. Ridge Way Farm hopes to develop community gardens, an educational working farm and be the future home of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia (www.accawv.org ).
The goal of Mudpie Magic is a simple one – to get people outside with their kids. I want to provide free-parts play for them, in the woods or on farms; to turn over rocks, climb trees and jump in puddles. As a nature educator I teach when the opportunity presents itself, without guiding the kids in any one direction or dictating what they should or shouldn’t learn about or experience while they are out. I almost always have bug containers, hand lenses, binoculars and field guides to help them learn when something catches their attention.
This all started when my daughter, now 5, was just starting to walk. I invited other families I knew then to join us on what I called ‘kids’ hikes’. I cautioned the parents that we would be moving very slowly, at the children’s pace, with no destination in mind, stopping to explore the natural features that the kids’ showed an interest in. Often we would have a picnic afterwards. Many times I thought of formalizing it into a kid or family nature club. I think the tipping point came when on one hike, I overheard one mother say that they’d done this on YouTube! They had never travelled the 15 minutes to the state forest close to our town. Now I have 50 families that I communicate with through Mudpie Magic!
Most of the time, when I take my kids hiking, the trailheads are empty. By the afternoon, the college students are making their way out to some, but very seldom do we see other families out hiking. Playgrounds on the other hand, with their safe, man-made structures, predetermined activities and defined areas are generally always busy. There is a movement now to provide nature focused play areas, as this one seen at the Cincinnati Nature Center, http://www.cincynature.org/nature-playscape.html .
Mudpie Magic is part of a growing movement to reconnect us with the outdoors; a remedy to Nature Deficit Disorder as coined by Richard Louv, www.richardlouv.com . Our general lack of connection with the Earth, as a society, has led to more sedentary lifestyles, obesity in children, lack of concentration and poor sleeping habits, among other things. Check the Children and Nature Network registry to see if there is a family nature club in your area. If not, consider starting one of your own; the Children and Nature Network has a handbook to help you start a family nature club in your town. http://www.childrenandnature.org/movement/naturalfamiliestools/
This ‘holiday’, choose to give your children the gift of a connection with the living world around them. It will last their entire lives and never lose its value. Start now and choose to do one small thing each day in your home or workplace. Before you know it, Earth Day will be every day!
What did you do to celebrate Earth Day today or every day? Do you have a nature club that encourages outdoor play in your community?