Guest Blogger: Green Hour–Taking Back Childhood One Kid at a Time

Today’s guest blogger, Bethe Almeras, is the Senior Manger for Family Programs for the National Wildlife Federation. She is the Campaign Manager for Green Hour®, which urges parents to give their kids a “Green Hour” every day, a time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world.

Green Hour: Taking Back Childhood One Kid at a Time
by Bethe Almeras

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, educator, or aunt, you have no doubt noticed the change in the American childhood. Neighborhoods are quiet — backyards, sidewalks, and parks are virtually empty. Scraped knees and elbows have been replaced by expanding waistbands and repetitive motion injuries. Free time has been replaced by structure, and a typical kid’s schedule is something to rival that of a Fortune 500 CEO’s.

The National Wildlife Federation and its website, Green Hour, is concerned with getting kids outside again. We want kids to have time to be kids. Real kids. Kids who run, laugh, jump, fall down, and figure out the world around them and their place in it. Kids who know the joy of the feeling of grass under their feet or the sense of wonder inspired by hiking a new trail or wading in a creek. Kids who have the time and encouragement to make these discoveries.

Simply put, what we want is childhood back. Not the overstressed, overscheduled, fast-tracked, plugged-in version that passes for childhood today. It will take all of us to do this. We need to make choices as parents to reduce our screen time and that of our children, and to make time for things that matter — eating dinner together, taking walks, planting a garden and the thousand other real-world activities that should be the cornerstone of childhood and adulthood alike. It’s not enough to get the time back. We have to be willing to put the time to good use.

5 Comments on “Guest Blogger: Green Hour–Taking Back Childhood One Kid at a Time”

  1. HomeworkBlues says:

    Merely telling parents they should have a daily Green Hour is not enough. They are preaching to the choir here!

    It is time for leaders in the world of childhood education, medicine and psychology to stand up for families. This is a wonderful organization. They must take it a step further and insist that schools not interfere with family and outdoor time.

    It’s not enough to conclude that if only principals knew about the needs of sleep and nature, they’d change. They know. How could they not? I believe they foist idiotic policies on an unsuspecting populace, hoping they can get away with it. It’s up to parents like Kristi on the other post to stare them down, and Just Say No.

    October 15th, 2008 at 4:39 pm
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  2. HomeworkBlues says:

    To add, I’ll take it a step further. I’m the last person to clamor for more government intrusion in our lives. But I am wondering — shouldn’t there be oversight?

    Because what we have here, despite a growing body of research decrying the ill effects of homework, are schools headed in the opposite direction. Just when we hear less is more, schools are giving more and more.

    Right now the burden of proof falls sqarely on the shoulders of parents. I am so glad to see Sara Bennett galvanizing parents. There is strength in numbers. But if only one parent makes noise at one school, that’s still not enough.

    I’m amazed the amount of homework that has invaded my living room all these years, but even more stunned that it’s work I never agreed to. I am stumped that I was never even asked. Did you ever get a detailed survey in the mail, asking your opinions about homework? Me neither. I was asked to fill out one on the new principal, and I included my remarks on homework but that was it.

    When schools insist their policies are fair, how do they know? Without talking to parents, how do they actually know what ten minutes looks like to a six year old? They can assign three hours, call it twenty minutes and when your seven year old drags it out all night, they say, TIME MANAGEMENT!!!!!

    The system we have here is that schools assign homework and the amount has reached the level of utter absurdity. Depending on where you live, that expectation is very likely made devoid of any research or evidence. The ten twenty thirty minute rule is ludicrous too but now we have something even worse — school districts ignoring those limits entirely. My daughter’s counselor, when I asked, told me there are no limits on homework.

    Shouldn’t the government look into homework policy? Insure that our most vulnerable of society, our children, are protected from abuse? Just as in child labor, or racial discrimination, there needs to be a law on the books. But can we count on our government to police this? After all, that’s where NCLB comes from!

    Our kids need sleep. That’s indisputable. Anything less is abuse.

    October 15th, 2008 at 4:52 pm
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  3. Diane says:

    Last night was absolutely beautiful here in the outskirts of the NJ Pine Barrens. Sunny, blue skies, trees beginning to turn, cool, but not cold. I got home at 5PM, and despite a mountain of homework awaiting my 7-yr-old, I asked him if he wanted to go on a bike ride. I just could not let the beautiful day pass us by. Of course, he said “yes!” We rode around our rural/suburban neighborhood for an hour and saw only one child – on our way home. It was a perfect day, yet there were no children out playing or riding their bikes. I was compelled to shout aloud to my son “Where are all the children?” He said, “They are probably watching TV or doing homework.” We eventually got to homework at 6:45 and finished at 7:45 ….

    I second the sentiments in the blog; we have to let our kids play again! Let them go outside!

    (I saw an excellent ad on TV while I was in Scotland. Go to http://www.persil.com and check out their TV ad and their “Every child has a right …” campaign. Persil is a laundry detergent!)

    October 16th, 2008 at 8:55 pm
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  4. Bethe says:

    Hi all: Thanks for the comments, and let me just say – you bet! Part of the cornerstone of the Green Hour campaign focuses on barriers to outdoor play, which of course homework falls into. That’s why when I read The Case Against Homework I contacted Sara and invited her to write a blog on the issue for Green Hour. Sara’s blog will appear the week of November 12th. I am excited to introduce the topic and book to our members and get the conversation started. For parents of young children, homework is not yet an issue, but one day will be if we continue on the road we are on now.

    That said, the reasons that kids are not going outside as they once were are more complex than just time constraints, and include things like safe access to green space, personal habits such as screen time, day care and after-school policies, and the recognition of the health, developmental, and emotional benefits of outdoor play, and on a more school-based level, the benefits of environmental education. At NWF, we are interested in all of the barriers and are dedicated to helping children and families get outside again – both as part of the school day and in the after-school hours. As the campaign and site continue to grow, you will see more voices and sides of the issue represented, and more tools and tips for parents. So stay tuned!

    The National Wildlife Federation is also heavily involved in working on federal and state education policy. This was a big year, with the passing of the No Child Left Inside Act in the House, and the charge will continue as it moves to the Senate next year. Recently, we have launched a campaign to get the Surgeon General to promote the benefits of daily outdoor play for all children and families. Raising awareness in the public health arena as well as the education arena is key to the success of the issue. To sign on to the petition, visit: https://online.nwf.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=605&s_src=playandobservehome

    To learn more about our policy work surrounding the nature deficit issue, please read our policy guide. You can find it and lots of additional information on the About Page of Green Hour. Visit: http://www.greenhour.org . I also invite you to read past blogs for more information on the issue.

    I wish us all good luck in our efforts, and hope that each of you find some time to get outside and play!

    Best- Bethe Almeras, National Wildlife Federation

    October 17th, 2008 at 11:19 am
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