Introducing Kids to Nature

How to Turn Kids On To Nature

I can’t tell you how many times one of my middle school students has melted down because he or she could not find his or her cell phone. They just come unglued.

Most kids are hooked on their screens. In fact, many of them are better named “screenagers,” addicted to digital images and text. They bounce from their cell phone screen to their television screen to their computer screen to their iPad screen, and in many cases their screens are all on at the same time. It’s quite an exciting existence to the average teenager. They can’t think of anything more interesting than laying on a comfortable couch in front of a satellite-connected high-definition TV, with their smartphone and X-Box controller on the coffee table, their iPad on the lap, and the computer nearby (just in case). If you think I am exaggerating, just ask a teenager if they think that sounds like a nice way to spend a summer day.

These screens are more like screen-doors or screen-windows than windows to the real world. You can see and hear things to some extent, but the clarity and depth perception is inferior. You are not fully in the world, even though you can hear and see and maybe even feel some of what’s happening out there. These digital doorways are virtual experiences at best.

The best way we can unhook them is not to take away all their screen time and tell them to go read a book. The answer is to get them hooked on something even more interactive and real than what’s on their screen. And what better antidote for digital addiction than fishing, hiking, or hunting?

Jake Hindman, an agent with the Missouri Conservation Department and a true outdoorsman, speaks to adults around the state about how to get kids interested in the outdoors. Here is a summary of his 3-point sermon: Continue reading “Introducing Kids to Nature”

Mister Rogers

I’m a huge Fred Rogers fan, so I was skeptical when I heard about the video remix recently done about him. I expected something satirical and mean-spirited, so I watched with my guard up. Instead, we have this.

There are so many things to learn about in this world and so many people who can help us learn.” – Fred Rogers

Thank you, John D. Boswell, for making this video. And thank you, Fred Rogers, for being a great man, a great teacher, and for leaving behind a great body of work for children throughout the world. Rest in peace, Mister Rogers.

A Revolution Is Upon Us

This from a CNN article titled, “Is the Internet hurting children?” by Chelsea Clinton and James P. Steyer, Special to CNN.

Howard Gardner, a professor and researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who developed the concept of multiple intelligences, calls kids’ use of digital media and technology “epochal change.” He compares the revolution in digital media to the invention of the printing press because of its extraordinary impact on the way we communicate, share information and interact with one another. As a society, we have no choice but to engage with this new reality and work to ensure that it affects our kids in healthy, responsible ways.

I absolutely agree with this notion that we are passing through a threshold of societal change, and it’s the kids who are the pioneers. We are passing from one era to the next, and we are all pretty clueless about the ramifications. Click here to read the article for yourself. It is brief but well-written. Continue reading “A Revolution Is Upon Us”

The Electronic Paradox – Part 1

My cell phone is not smart, my television is not thin, and my car plays cassette tapes. It’s not that I can’t afford better technology, it’s just that I don’t want to own all the latest, greatest techno-gadgets. I’ve chosen to be a “late adopter” or a “casual user” of technology. It’s not that I don’t like electronic toys; in fact, I am prone to love gadgets too much. After all, I grew up in the 80’s when electronic gadgetry really took off, and I know that I can be easily seduced into the eternal vortex of buying new electronic gear. So to avoid electronic addictions, I try to steer clear of Best Buy and its seductive advertisements, and yet I love my MacBook and all that it allows me to experience: my blog, three email accounts, FaceBook, Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, and free access to countless fascinating articles online.

Personally, I vacillate with my use of new technology. For two years, I used an Apple iPod Touch as my personal digital assistant. It served as my calendar, address book, list maker, internet browser, and it contained dozens of apps to help me stay organized and informed. I carried it with me all day, every day, until I lost it in the woods on a hunting trip, ironically (I wonder what the squirrels and worms think of it). Ultimately, I decided to replace it with the old paper calendar / day-timer system because I realized that I had become addicted to that little handheld internet-connected device. I couldn’t NOT look at it for more than an hour, and typically I would quickly check something (email, Facebook, or the news) anytime I had a minute to kill. I didn’t want to struggle with digital addiction anymore, so I went low-tech to gain back some of my humanity. Continue reading “The Electronic Paradox – Part 1”

How Do We Live With Our Cell Phones?

We are all in the midst of a cultural revolution, and it’s in the palm of our hands.  We are trying to figure out how to use all these internet-connected mobile devices in a healthy way.  We are fumbling in the dark, as we attempt to use new, powerful tools to live better lives. And yet very few, if any, people are able to proclaim, “This is how you do it.”  In fact, it may be a decade before we establish a healthy set of public safety laws and social morays related to digital devices.

As parents and teachers, we wonder how to handle the iPad, the DVR, and the smartphone in ways that are healthy for our kids. Some are eschewing these digital devices outright, due to a host of fears or utter frustration. Others are welcoming everything that Apple spits out, trusting that Steve Jobs and his successors know what is best for us.  However, most of us are somewhere in the middle, looking around, wondering who has some wisdom.

We look to others for answers, as we consider our own values, and very few people seem to have it figured out.

Now that summer is here, I will be writing more on this topic in the months to come, and I welcome any suggestions, comments, and questions on the topic.

I’ll be considering this train of thought: “What technology makes easy is not always what nurtures the human spirit.” (Sherry Turkle)

For more on this, visit Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk

A Scholastic Tuneup

Many teachers will tell you that it’s the middle of the school year when most learning takes place. So, let’s take a quick look at some old and some new ideas for helping young students get the most of their education right now in the heart of the school year.

Some Basics

Rest: Get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  The more consistent, the better.

Eat a large healthy breakfast, like oatmeal and eggs. Don’t skip a meal. And don’t eat high-sugar foods during the day.

Focus: Use any spare class time to work on homework, rather than socializing. If needed, ask to sit away from a friend who can’t stop talking.

Friends: Use recess, passing times, lunch, and before/after school time for socializing.

Drink water throughout the day. Take a water bottle to class.

Move. Don’t skip recess or PE. Exercise helps academic concentration.

Homework: Setup a spot in the home that is quiet and supplied for schoolwork.

Time: Set aside time every night for homework and have an adult available to help if needed. A little exercise right after school is helpful.

Daily Planner: Use a planner to keep track of assignments, tests, quizzes, and project due dates.  Use it in every class, everyday.

Locker: Keep it organized and tidy. Organized students learn more and get better grades.

Something New

Young people will tell you that they think best when they have music on and when they can access their friends with their digital devices. Continue reading “A Scholastic Tuneup”

High-Tech Love

The best new technologies are mechanical innovations that release human innovations.  The real geniuses are not the software programmers and marketers who bring us the new glittering products.  The real technological geniuses are the bright, caring people who find creative new uses for new (and old) technologies – to improve the world at the relational level.  People create – consumers don’t adopt – new ways to express love, to inspire activism, to make something beautiful for all to view, to mend a broken relationship, or to educate in a powerful way.

We can be more innovative in our use of technology to reach out to our family, friends, community, and beyond.  Here’s a beautiful example: