Day 15 – day off (total – 287.2 km)
We said a tearful goodbye to the Walmart parking lot this morning and made our way to Gander Academy. This is the biggest elementary school east of Montreal. It has over 900 students K-6 with about 7 classes in each grade. This school visit came up last minute and because of their schedule, I had the chance to chat briefly with a few of the grade 4/5 phys ed classes.
I have a little story I tell students, but in a small group like this, it’s really an opportunity to try and engage them in some conversation. And it’s quite remarkable how enthusiastic they are! When asked if they like being outside, there is a firm nodding of heads and raising of hands. And the list is endless as to what they enjoy doing outside – sliding (term on the Rock for tobogganing), walking the dog, riding bikes, making snowforts. And again, there are some solid responses to why being outside is important. They even acknowledge that they can spend too much time in front of screens.
When asked if they like being outside, there is a firm nodding of heads and raising of hands… They even acknowledge that they can spend too much time in front of screens.
I am constantly reflecting on how to communicate the importance of this message. I am reading Jean Twenge’s book Generation Me, which takes a look at changing attitudes of the generation following baby boomers. She has a convincing argument so far (I’m 3 chapters in) that Generation Me (which she defines as anyone from current teens up to people in their 30’s) have learned to put themselves first in most aspects of their life. They are less likely to listen to parents, to teachers and to any other authority who is trying to tell them what to do. So how does this Project compel children and youth to spend more time outside?
Short answer – we can’t. Every generation must decide for themselves what worked for previous generations and what didn’t, what was important and what wasn’t. Anyone who’s older than 25 might take it for granted that growing up, the majority of our time outside of school was spent outdoors. There was no pressing research to tell parents that this was a good thing! It’s just the way it was, and now it isn’t so much… for many reasons! But this ‘digital’ generation must come to terms with their reality – is spending over 45 hours a week in front of screens a healthy thing? Research is beginning to tell us loud and clear that it’s not. Ultimately though, it’s up to them to decide how valuable spending time outside can be. Without a doubt, we can do our best to hook them on being outside when they’re young… but as they get older, they become more determined to make their own decisions and set their own agendas. And good for them – they should!
At Gander Academy, they are starting an outdoor winter unit next week, which will be kicked off by snowshoeing in the abundant snow surrounding the school. Proof that with a staff and administration that care about students being outside and active, learning can actually happen outside 4 walls and a desk. We can only hope that experiences like this can lead children to a great love for being outside as they get older!