Sending kids outside to play is one of the best things parents can do for them, right? Books have been written about the many benefits to children's health and development of playing outside in natural surroundings. Trees. Meadows. Creeks. Those books include "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv, "Risk and Adventure in Early Years Outdoor Play" by Sara Knight, and "How to Raise a Wild Child" by Scott Sampson.
Louv coined the now well-known term "nature deficit disorder" as a short-hand term for all the ill effects, especially on children, of spending too little time playing creatively in natural surroundings.
Yet today, many parents are so concerned about the hazards of young children being out there unsupervised and unguarded from both "stranger danger" and natural hazards that the that kids tend to stay inside when they aren't inside in school or in organized groups or team sports, staring at tiny or enormous screens, or playing with gaudy bits of plastic made in China. The difference between the dangers of sitting around too much indoors, and the dangers of playing outdoors, is the that the ill effects of sitting-around-inside are not just a risk but a certainty for kids who are limited to too much indoor life. Whereas the dangers of the great outdoors seldom actually happen, and when they do, it's usually to the ill-prepared or reckless.
Two young women in Rossland are operating programs designed to minimize nature deficit disorder in the children entrusted to their care, and to help ensure that children are well-prepared when they play outside. Their business is a registered partnership called "One Tree Adventures" and they run a variety of programs for different ages. For example, "Junior Nature Detectives" are only two and three years old; they meet one day a week, for three hours at a time. Other Nature Detective groups are designed for other ages. Groups are limited to ten children, with only five children per instructor. They learn plant identification and other useful information about the local outdoors. "Radical Girls' Camp" is for girls from nine to fourteen, and they are taught some basics about consent and self-defence along with outdoor lore, wilderness survival skills, team-building, and using all their senses to be aware of their surroundings.
There's an "Outdoor Adventure Club" for kids from five to eleven, meeting either one or two days a week for three hours at a time.
Who are these women, boldly teaching children how to be outside?
Holly Borwick and Emily Kogan-Young are the two business partners. Holly studied Geography at McGill University, has her Bachelor's degree, and has worked with several other outdoor programs. She spoke about the advantages of Switzerland's "Forest Kindergarten" programs, where the young children spend all their time outdoors; for a trailer showing a glimpse of one of them, click here. (Some of it may remind people of the original "huts" in the Strawberry Pass area.) Holly and Emily's programs are inspired by the Forest Kindergartens ― but so far, the young children in their care don't have knives to carve sticks with, as seen in the video!
Emily has a degree in Community, Public Affairs and Policy Studies from Concordia University in Montreal, and is also a herbalist. Both Holly and Emily have First Aid qualifications.
For those times when their groups meet, or spend some time preparing to go outside, One Tree Adventures is sub-leasing the Scout Hall during those hours when the Scouts are not using it. Parents interested in their programs can seek them out on FaceBook for more details.
Learning about the world by means of outdoor play in early childhood seems like a natural fit for Rossland, and a healthy trend generally.