This Thursday 22nd September is Devon Car Free Day. Hopefully lots of people will leave their cars at home and find another way to get around or if they are able, to just spend the day closer to home.
What does this have to do with outdoor learning? Well a big part of my reason for doing this sort of work is because I think that outdoor experiences can have huge benefits for children, young people and adults. In a way its a shame that most children’s outdoor experiences are now mediated in some way by adults even at Forest School where experiences should be largely child initiated. Myself and lots of adults I meet always go on about what it was like when we were children and could go out all day and play in the woods, streets, fields, building sites and ‘waste’ ground as long as we were home for dinner. This golden age, real or imagined exists for very few children today and a big reason why I am reluctant to let my young children play on the street or commons by themselves is my fear of road traffic and the volume and speed of vehicles on the streets of our little market town. Fewer and slower cars on our roads could have big benefits in terms of safe, independant outdoor play and the associated increase in exercise and (decrease in obesity) by children.
In their words:
Cast your mind back to your childhood. What are the memories that bring a smile to your face? Riding your bike, exploring new, unfamiliar places, being out and about with friends? Probably, because these are the things that today’s adults enjoyed as children, with 70% experiencing most of their adventures outdoors.
Contrast this with today’s children. Top of their list is also playing on their bikes and exploring new and unfamiliar places. But only 29% are experiencing adventures outdoors, often closely supervised by adults.
At Sustrans we think it’s time to change this. We believe every child deserves to be free range and experience freedom from their front door to go exploring, play outdoors, and make their own way to school and beyond.
To get some ideas to help your kids become more free range, and to add your voice to the Free Range Kids pledge, visit www.sustrans.org.uk/freerangekids
Their Free Range Kids report is also well worth a read.
Now I’m off to walk up the garden and build my new shed.