Leave No Child Inside, PlayScapes, Nature Camps – PediaCast 254
Dr James MacDonald and Jenny Morgan join Dr Mike in the PediaCast Studio to talk about the “Leave No Child Inside” movement. We’ll discuss the risks of staying indoors and the physical and mental benefits of children interacting with nature. We cover backyard PlayScapes, outdoor classrooms, and nature camps… plus research that supports the movement!
Leave No Child Inside
Announcer 1: This is PediaCast.
Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's, here is your host, Dr. Mike!
Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello, everyone and welcome once again to PediaCast. It's a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike, coming to you from the campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital. It's May 22nd, 2013. This is Episode 254 and we're calling it "Leave No Child Inside, Playscapes and Nature Camps".
I want to welcome everyone to the program. Did you know that kids spend an average of 7 1/2 hours each day tethered to electronic devices. Seven-and-a-half hours on average, and that does not include time spent using electronics in school. And, of course, then we wonder why childhood obesity is on the rise, why your kids have a fewer meaningful relationships with friends, and why stress, depression and anxiety levels are off the charts. And because electronic use is primarily an indoor activity, because that's where the outlets are located, our kids have less interest in the mysteries and wonder of nature, vitamin D deficiency is on the rise and physical fitness, muscle strength, coordination and balance are declining fast.
But there's hope! The Leave No Child Inside Movement is a grassroots effort to reverse these trends. And they're making headway by educating parents, educators, medical professionals and community leaders and really making us all aware of this staggering problem. I have a couple of great studio guests today to talk about the scope of the issue and some easy tips on getting your kids outdoors and connected with nature, at home at school and in the community.
So who are these guests? I am glad you asked. Dr. James McDonald is a sports medicine specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. And Jenny Morgan is a song writer — so that's fun — and founder and co-chair of the Leave No Child Inside Central Ohio Collaborative. And we'll get to both of them in a moment.
First, I got a quick story for you. And I have to be honest, I'm a little embarrassed to talk about food when the topic of the show is getting outside and interacting with nature and being active. But you know, good food in moderation is important, too, and it's a story that I couldn't pass up.
So, most of you know, PediaCast started here in Ohio and we moved to Florida for a few years. And of course now, we're back in Ohio. Well, before we moved to Florida, my son who was 11 years old at that time, his biggest concern with moving to Florida was that there was no Donatos, which is his favorite pizza joint. So I looked online, and sure enough, there was a Donatos in Orlando. They aren't everywhere but they're in Ohio, and they just happen to be in Charlotte, Atlanta and Orlando and that's it.
So this is cool. Hey, we're picking a place that's got his favorite pizza joint, so he's on board with the move. And, in fact, there was one just a few minutes from our new home, so he's really in good shape, right? Well, not so fast. We got settled in Orlando and called Donatos for the first time to order a pizza. And I get the 'doo-doo-doo' tone, you know the one, the number's been disconnected. And sure enough, because of the economy, Donatos pulled out of the Atlanta and Orlando markets the week before we moved.
So poor Nick, he's very disappointed, no Donatos, except when we fly back up north as a family. And in the first stop after landing at the airport usually was a Donatos. We'd order from the plane as everyone's debarking, pick it up, eat the pizza in the car as we drive the family. So good times, but he got his Donatos. But you know, no Donatos in Orlando.
However, we did find a restaurant in Florida that my wife and I just fell in love with called Moe's Southwest Grill. And, "Welcome to Moe's!" — they all shout it when you walk in. Some of you out there know what I'm talking about. Sort of like Chipotle but much better in my humble opinion and I don't get any sponsorships for kick backs here folks, just honesty.
So, when the opportunity arose to move back to Ohio, of course, my son was ecstatic because it meant Donatos way more often than a couple of times a year. But my wife and I then were worried, because we didn't recall there being a Moe's in Columbus when we've lived here before. I mean, this could be a real deal breaker.
So, once again, I search Google and guess what, there's a Moe's on High Street on the Ohio State campus. So, OK, all is well and good, I accepted the position in Nationwide Children's, we can move north. And you know where this is going. We got settled in and due to the state of the economy, Moe's had pulled out. And so, there was no Moe's in Central Ohio by the time that we've moved here.
Well, Nick, my son, is having a little too much fun with that turn of events and I supposed I deserved it. Anyway, in the end though, I get the last laugh because Moe's Southwest Grill comes back to Central Ohio with a brand spanking new location on Lane Avenue and apparently more locations to come. So just like a couple of weeks ago, we went really… As soon as I heard, that night we went.
Dr. James McDonald: Very nice.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And it did not disappoint. So, of course, as a family we had a good laugh about the whole turn of events. Since you guys out there in the PediaCast audience are also my family, I just wanted to share it with you, except that was a fun story. And just in case you've never heard of Donatos or Moe's, I'll put links to both those places in the Show Notes in case you want to see if there's one near you. And again, no kickbacks here, we're just telling you what we like.
All right, before we turn our full attention to No Child Left Inside, I do want to remind you, if there's a topic that you would like us to talk about here on PediaCast, it's easy to get a hold of me. If you have a question or a topic idea or you want to point me on the direction of a new story, just head over to pediacast.org and click on the Contact link.
Also, I want to remind you the information presented in every episode of the program is for general educational purposes only. We do not diagnose medical conditions or formulate treatment plans for specific individuals. So, if you have a concern about your child's health, make sure you call your doctor and arrange a face-to-face interview and hands-on physical examination.
Before we head in to the break, I want to leave you with a quote to ponder, "Look at deep into nature and then you will understand everything better." That was Albert Einstein. All right, I will see you on the other side.
Dr. Mike Patrick: All right, we are back and another quote for you to ponder as I introduce our guest this week, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." And that William Shakespeare and since we are talking about nature this week, I guess in another way, that makes us family. So I'll stop being rude and introduce our house guests.
Dr. Jim McDonald is a sports medicine physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of Pediatrics and Family Medicine at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. McDonald is no stranger to PediaCast. He joined us back in Episode 212 when we talked about physical fitness and resistance training.
It's good to have you back, Dr. McDonald.
Dr. James McDonald: It's good be here, Mike. Thanks.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Really appreciate you stopping by.
I'm also joined by Jenny Morgan. Jenny is a songwriter and grassroots activist in the children and nature movement. She's a teacher in the after-school program at the Columbus School for Girls and their program for young children. Jenny is also founder and co-chair of the Leave No Child Inside Central Ohio Collaborative and a respected expert on the importance of getting kids away from the screen out of the house and interacting with nature, like we used to do when there were three channels on TV and no such things as laptops, iPhones and first-person shooter video games.
So, it's a real honor and pleasure having you here, Jenny. Welcome to the show.
Jenny Morgan: Thank you so much.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Really appreciate it.
So tell us, what exactly is the Leave No Child Inside Movement?
Jenny Morgan: Well, thanks again, Dr. Patrick, for having us and for helping us spread the Leave No Child Inside message, a message that is critical for the health and wellness of our children and the health and wellness of our natural world. The Leave No Child Inside Movement is an national, international initiative to get our children unplugged back outside every single day for at least an hour a day, and engaged in unstructured free play and outdoor learning; where they can learn to get reconnected with their natural world, where they can run, explore, dream and just be in nature with no electronic intrusion.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Sure. Now, there was a guy who kind of was the brainstorm behind this, who really sort of kicked off the movement by the name of Richard Louv. Who exactly is Richard Louv?
Dr. James McDonald: Richard is, I believe, a journalist. He started his career that way. But he's famous for having written a book called "Last Child in the Woods". I think Jenny might be able to speak of him better than I. I think it came out maybe five or six years ago. I remember when I read it, it blew me away. It's so well-written. It is so direct to address some of the things you've already touched on, Mike, and the importance of connecting our kids back into nature on every level, physical, mental, spiritual. His work had ripple effects throughout public health, throughout activists like Jenny's life. Really dramatic effect, this guy. So anyone out there who wants to read a great book, get that from the library. It's wonderful.
Jenny Morgan: Agreed.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And what's the name of it again?
Dr. James McDonald: "Last Child in the Woods." Then, it…
Jenny Morgan: "Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder."
Dr. James McDonald: Yeah.
Dr. Mike Patrick: He kind of coined that term and I love it.
Jenny Morgan: He did.
Dr. Mike Patrick: 'Nature-Deficit disorder', because we definitely have that going around.
Now, there's really a lot of benefits for kids getting outside and interacting with nature, and as you mentioned, physical, mental, spiritual. What are some of the physical benefits of kids getting outside?
Dr. James McDonald: First, let me say that I think that in my world, in medicine and public health, there is internally and correct dynamics where we look for evidence-based medicine — where is the hard data — and that drives a lot of the work we do. If I step back for one moment, I would say that there are other ways of understanding truth and reality and there's wisdom that doesn't need to necessarily tap into evidence-based medicine. I think anyone of us who have kids who've watched them on a playground, 100 yards away from mommy and daddy and how they play, see the difference between that in what we see when they're in front of the iPad in the couch.
That said, there is a wealth of evidence in my world that would support this sort of initiatives. Let me start by saying the American Academy of Pediatrics you already alluded to, Mike, recommends one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day for all kids everyday. This is defined by a technical term called metabolic equivalent of tasks. It boils down to moderate activity as walking; vigorous activity is running.
Study after study has shown our kids are failing that mark. It doesn't matter if pediatricians remind parents at every visit, we're failing the mark. So the question remains, if kids are outside, do they seem to get that kind of activity more than most? And I can point numbers of studies, but really, quickly, let me say just a couple of ones.
One I came across looked at accelerometer-measured moderate-vigorous physical activity at age five is the strongest predictor for lower BMI, lower body fat at ages eight and 11. One study in the International Journal of Obesity in 2008 followed a longitudinal cohort of individual for three years. The only intervention was encouragement to get outside. The intervention group had 41% lower incidence of obesity compared to the control group.
And finally, the thing I would say, I'd really want to point out to the audience is, a very good journal article in 2010, the Journal of Epidemiology in Clinical Health found that the strongest predictors for outdoor activity were parental encouragement and role modeling. Parents getting out, parents encouraging their children to disconnect and get outside.
Dr. Mike Patrick: It's really important for all of us, not just the kids. I mean, for our own health, but then also the behaviors that we're imparting on our kids after us.
Dr. James McDonald: Absolutely.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And our grandkids, because our kids will have influence in their lives.
Dr. James McDonald: So, if you connect the dots and all the data, it's not hard to trace out the story. Get the kids outside, encourage them to do so, take a hands-off approach, they will be much more physically active. If that's the only goal you have separate from the mental, spiritual. You'll do well by your children by getting them out.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And, likewise, with the sort of evidence of the physical benefits of getting outside, there's also been some recent studies that show that interaction with nature can improve things like depression, stress, creativity, concentration, even test scores.
Dr. James McDonald: Yes, definitely. Even the reverse of, you know that notion, exercise-deficit disorder, there is research in terms of those kind of interventions to address attention-deficit disorder. And, I think there's a real science behind that. But on a general level, the understanding is that, again, the phase at which reality is presented to the brain in the real world outside is completely different than the way it's presented in the virtual world, on TV and on pads.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Jenny Morgan: Yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: In some levels, it stands to reason, our brains evolve in that milieu. It didn't evolve in the virtual world milieu. And there are studies out there that show improvements in outcomes of attention-deficit disorder by simply getting kids playing outside.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And if we had a medicine that promised all these results that we're talking about, I mean, there's no question that it would be making the investors quite happy, right?
Jenny Morgan: Yes.
Dr. James McDonald: Absolutely.
Dr. Mike Patrick: But something just as simple as getting outside, we just sort of take it for granted and don't take seriously sometimes.
So Jenny, how did you become interested in the Leave No Child Inside Movement?
Jenny Morgan: Well, I got interested in the subject of children, nature and health and the interconnection of these subjects before I knew about the movement, I guess. And I got interested in health benefits of being in nature when back in, I think it was 2004 and '05, I was trying to save a nature camp that I love and that I attended as a child and as an adult. The numbers at the camp were way down. People were trying to give up on the camp, saying the camp was passe, that computer camps and soccer camps were kind of the way of the future. But I knew, from my experience as a child and as a counselor at the camp, I knew in the deepest of ways — maybe just anecdotally — but I knew that nature and nature camps were one of the healthiest and most valuable experience a child could have.
So I set out to find research about the health benefits of being in nature and that's when I found Richard Louv's and it was like finding a gold mine. And I sat down with some other people to develop a marketing campaign for the camp based on nature and health. And, as I read the book, I realized it was about much more than just saving my beloved camp. It was really about saving children's lives and saving the natural world.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Sure. And you ended up founding what's called the Central Ohio Collaborative of the Leave No Child Inside Movement. What exactly is that?
Jenny Morgan: The Collaborative is a network. Anyone can join, it's free. Presently, we have over a 100 Central Ohio organizations and many individuals from a myriad of disciplines. We have doctors, teachers, parents, urban planners — really anyone and everyone who is interested in saving a child from nature-deficit disorder.
And it formed in 2007 when I and some friends, we read Richard Louv's book, like Dr. McDonald, and we were so inspired, we thought, "Well, let's just get people together and talk about this." So we got a list of organizations that we thought might be interested. We simply sent out a letter inviting them to come to a summit at the nature camp that I went to as a child, in the Hocking Hills here in Ohio. And, lo and behold, 30 organizations responded. And they came and we had a wonderful summit, and the Collaborative was born then.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Great. Just to give folks kind of a background idea what's happening here, it's really a movement. So it's a grassroots effort. So there's Collaborative, sort of, all over the country. Is that correct?
Jenny Morgan: You got it. In Ohio, we have six Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives now. And around the country, there are 110. And it's even beyond the national level now.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Sure. And we'll put some links in the Show Notes. Once we get at the end of the interview, I'll make mention of what those links are and where folks can find them. But we wanted people to get in touch with their local Collaborative, because we have a lot of listeners who are in Central Ohio, but there's still some activity with Leave No Child Inside in their area that they can sort of tap into.
Jenny Morgan: Sure. Sure.
Dr. Mike Patrick: So what are the specific goals then of your Collaborative here in Central Ohio?
Jenny Morgan: Well, our goals are simple. We want to reach as many people as possible with our message. We want to grow our Collaborative to include individuals from all of our Central Ohio communities and with as many organizations, non-profit schools, hospitals, universities and state leaders as we can from a variety of disciplines. We want to inspire everyone to take action in whatever small or big way they can to reconnect the child with nature.
And collectively, from these small and big actions we want to eradicate nature-deficit disorder. And in so doing, we want to also, it's important that we get people to parks, to nature camps — families and children — so these parks and camps are full, overflowing with people and are thus preserved for future generations.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup. We were talking a little bit before the show that my own family, we really sort of rediscovered our metro parks in the spring. And it seem like when we wanted to get in touch with nature, we would drive down to the Smokeys, to Gatlinburg and go hiking there, which is great. And Hocking Hills, as you mentioned, sort of in the east, southeastern part of the state, it really is an amazing place with lots of wilderness.
But I always just kind of pictured our own metro parks as being the place to go out and throw a football. But that's really not true. We got lots of wooded areas to explore and discover. And in fact, at Highbanks Metro Park, you can take a hike and go see eagle's nest and see eagles in their natural habitat. It's a pretty cool thing.
Jenny Morgan: Yeah, and the great thing about the metro parks also that John O'Meara, the director, has instituted is natural play areas, where before, in parks, you couldn't go off the path. When I was younger, you had to stay on the path. But now, he's opened it up and so children can go down in the creeks of the metro parks, turn over stones and be filled with wonder as they travel through the woods.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: When my family and I moved here from California three years ago, we were really taken by the metro parks, the Ohio State Park system as well, which blew me away was free. You know, I just kept driving in and expecting to pay somewhere. Every other state I've ever lived in, there would be a user's fee, likewise with the metro parks.
And I think you're right, both Jenny and Mike. There's the one, also, metro park — I forgot its name — it has the bison.
Jenny Morgan: Oh yeah, beautiful.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: Beautiful. It has like a canoe livery. You can hire a canoe and kayaks, and go kayaking on a river.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, is that Scioto Darby?
Jenny Morgan: Yes.
Dr. Mike Patrick: With the bison?
Jenny Morgan: Yes.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and that's a huge metro park with lots of hiking trails. Yeah, really cool place.
Jenny Morgan: I just thought of another goal that I wanted to mention. Another goal, being that along with this being a health issue for children, it's also a health issue for the future of our natural world. And by that I mean that our environmental movement and our conservation movement is graying. You can't see me but I have grey hair.
Jenny Morgan: And the idea is that, our children are becoming so alienated from the natural world. They're not forming a relationship, they're not falling in love with it. And so, why would they want to protect it? Why would they want to fund the park? I mean, what's the park? They may never have been there? So the idea is to get children reconnected with the natural world, falling in love with the natural world, so they'll preserve the natural world in the future.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup. Now, we talked about the goals of the Central Ohio Collaborative. What sort of things are you doing to achieve those goal?
Jenny Morgan: Well, we do several things. We hold an annual Leave No Child Inside Summit, which is open to the public. It's the last Friday in September every year. This year, it's at the Audubon Center downtown, usually from about 9 to 1. Dr. McDonald came last year and presented. We always try to make it fun, entertaining, full of music and artistic presentation. It's a great time to connect.
We also have a friendly, informational website that people can visit and I think we're going to have a link to that.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup.
Jenny Morgan: We employ social media as often as we can. We send out our e-newsletter every week to about 600 subscribers. We have several downloadable materials that can help spread the message. We have a poster people can print, Leave No Child Inside trifold. We have the Ohio Children Outdoor Bill of Rights, which you can download and put up on a door somewhere, maybe in your school.
We present at conferences. We sit on community task force when we can to bring the Leave No Child Inside message and help to those getting into nature, to those plans. We work with the media, like today, and we create artistic YouTubes. I think you maybe some links to those.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Jenny Morgan: And finally, you mentioned I'm song writer. I write songs about this issue and spread it through music.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and the songs are fantastic, really. And we'll talk a little bit more about those when we talk about the YouTube videos and then, also, your own site, if folks like the music that they're hearing, they'll have the opportunity to buy the CD as well.
So, which would you say would be one of your more popular programs that you do?
Jenny Morgan: Well, our main program is our annual event, our annual summit. It's always well-attended. Again, let me reiterate that the Leave No Child Inside Collaborative is a network. We don't deliver the nature programming, but our job is to educate the public so that they'll go to these programs. And so, these programs will be overflowing. Like you mentioned, metro parks, we have so many wonderful programs already here in Central Ohio — nature camps, individual nature programs. And our job is to educate, advocate and help facilitate collaboration so we get families out there.
Dr. Mike Patrick: I remember going on an-hour walk at one of the metro parks a few years back — that was really a lot of fun — in the evening and the guy had a recording of an owl and would play it and then, you could hear where the owls were. Although, we joked someone had a similar machine.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Half a mile away.
Jenny Morgan: Yeah.
Dr. Mike Patrick: But no, no, I don't think it's the case. We had a little fun with it, too.
As with these programs, Jenny, have you seen an impact in Central Ohio since you started the Collaborative.
Jenny Morgan: I have, over the five and six years, as I look back, I think we've made an impact. Our web traffic has increased. We now e-mail more than 600 leaders, as I mentioned, in education, parks, medicine, and parenting, each month. We started with a list of 75. Our membership has grown from the original 30 that came to that first summit to over a 100 organizations. And, of course, we have individual membership as well. Again, it's free.
Let's see, what else? We worked in connection with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in the Governor's office to create the report on Ohio's initiative to reconnect children and nature. And we also drafted the Ohio Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights with their help.
And at the national level, let me mentioned that the Children In Nature Network, that's really the kind of the national version of the Central Ohio Collaborative. They did a 2011 survey of grassroots leaders, regionals, statewide and provincial campaigns that showed a three-fourth increase — this made me very happy — in the number of children and youth getting outdoors and nature from 2009 to 2011. From one million to three million annually, so that's good news.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. I think, really, an important point here is — as Dr. McDonald, you mentioned — when physicians say, "Hey, get your kids outside to play. It's really important," that message is not necessarily taken to heart. But when there's a community movement to do it, then people start to really get the picture a bit more. Not to minimize what we do, but…
Dr. James McDonald: No, no, no. No. And I think it also emphasizes the challenge, there's this notion of an exercise prescription. That when you look into the literature, the evidence is as robust for an exercise prescription as it is for prescription for amoxicillin or any antibiotic. With that said, where I think we fail as physicians is helping our patients deal with barriers to access with that idea of the states of change.
You know, it'd be the same thing if I were counseling somebody on smoking cessation. I might bring up the topic, they're in the pre-contemplative state. They don't want to talk about it, fine. That doesn't mean the conversation's over. The next time, I broach it again, and over time, they may enter a different stage in that stages of change or they entered that.
So, I think, exercise prescription which is one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, if that's all we're doing, we're failing our jobs as doctors because we can point people to "Well, if you're having trouble, why don't you check out this site? Why don't you read this book? Why don't you go? Our metro parks are great. You don't have to drive to Tennessee." Helping people strategize over how they can achieve this simple thing we're talking about — one hour outdoors, let's let the kids play.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. Jenny, I would expect that in addition to the positives, you probably had some challenges along the way, too. What are some of those been?
Jenny Morgan: Yes, there are challenges for sure. I mean, the obvious ones are addiction to electronics. Ever shrinking natural spaces, there are some neighborhoods where kids really can't get outside because it's just simply too dangerous. There's too much traffic, there's too much violence. So we really need to get these children some nature programming. We need to, I think, include natural spaces into all our urban development.
But I'd say also, one of the biggest things we come across when we speak is fear. You know, the fear of going outside, the fear of letting children play, they might get hurt. And we always say, the irony is that by keeping our children inside and by keeping them , let's say, at the playground, at the school where I work, if we don't let them play, climb, run, they're getting weaker, their muscles, their motor skills are underdeveloped. And in that, they're more susceptible to injury and risk. So it's ironic.
Dr. Mike Patrick: I like one of the YouTube videos that we're going to talk about and point folks to was a talk that you gave. And I thought it was really interesting where you had drawn a map of sort of a one-mile radius surrounding your house and like, "Hey, here's where we hang out and play." Then I was thinking back to my own childhood, and, absolutely, it was like "Be home for dinner." And, you know, we explore and there were woods and creeks and we really were outside.
And now, you mentioned today, it's really just your backyard and never out of the sight of the parents. And we do see less injury that way, but at what cost?
Jenny Morgan: Right, right. A big cost I think.
Dr. James McDonald: I think there's this balance too that needs to be struck as I was thinking as Jenny was speaking some of the challenges. And I want to be clear, other than actually folks out there who live in place like Westerville, you can start running nonetheless. Shame on us if we're not outside, shame on us if our kids are not outside. I mean, there are sidewalks, there's green space.
And I don't want to underestimate the challenges in other environments in our city and wherever other listeners may be listening. I would say that many studies have shown that the more presence there is of adults in the neighborhood, in the environment, it's a self-policing thing. It doesn't take care of every single problem. But if you have an adult out there yelling at the car that's driving ten miles over the speed limit, "Hey, guys, we're looking out for shady behavior," we can make our outside environment safer. Which again, gets to that study I alluded to earlier, one of the single greatest things we can do as parents is role model and encourage our kids to get outside but get outside ourselves.
But then, I think we also need to balance one of the things that we've all touched on so far is that idea of unstructured play outside that kids can have, the unstructured play you alluded to just a moment ago when you were a kid like, "Go outside, come back at dinner." It's harder to wrap the minds around the exact hard evidence, but I think it's quite clear that kids who do that — out of parental sight — you learn socialization, you learn how to make up the rules, you learn how to deal with the bully, you learn how to manage issues. And I think that, too, is a great value to being outside, a little bit outside of parental oversight.
And, obviously, inside, you're a little bit more, parents are always around, they can monitor what's going. Again, there's a tension, and I recognize the tension, but there is a goodness as our kids go older, too. They're out of sight, they're figuring things out on their own. It's easier to achieve that outside.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah.
Jenny Morgan: Excuse me, I heard Richard Louv present it this way once when I heard him speak. He said, "Maybe we can be hummingbirds when we're watching our children play instead of helicopters." And that always kind of stuck with me.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Jenny Morgan: You know, let them go off. You know where they are, and maybe peek around the corner and make sure they're OK and go out of sight. So they kind of have that sense of freedom and autonomy. And then, go back and check on them.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And I think this also goes into, when we're inside more, we don't know our neighbors. And so, we don't get that self-policing… The community is not out there together looking out for one another when we're all just inside our homes.
Jenny Morgan: Yes.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Jenny, one of the things that the Collaborative is kind of focused on is natural playscapes. What is a natural playscape and how are those beneficial?
Jenny Morgan: Playscapes are play areas, at home, at school, at hospitals, at places of worship that incorporate nature or natural elements into a child's play space. So, for example, in a natural play space, instead of or in addition to a plastic slide, you might have a small grassy knoll.
What's the difference in regards to child's play? Well, a plastic slide is pretty much one-dimensional, I guess you could say in a certain way. The rules are you're supposed to climb up the stairs and slide down. It will help motor skills for sure. But a grassy knoll on the other hand is multi-dimensional. It could be something you roll down, run down, crawl down, slither down. Or it could be the top of the mountain, or the back of a whale. It could be a stage where the children perform or a place to lie down and watch the clouds go by.
Here's another example I thought of. In a natural playscape, let's say a concrete or asphalt path might be replaced by a pebble path, leading in to a flagstone path, leading into a willow tunnel, leading to a collection of tree stumps or a long enticing falling tree trunk. What's the difference? Texture, varied topography, aesthetics, sensory stimulation, all of the things that enhanced children's development. It's alive, really.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, and if folks wanted to kind of get a picture in their mind of what a natural playscape can look like, one of the videos that we've kind of been talking about on YouTube really does a great job of showing that. And if folks go to pediacast.org and go to the Show Notes and just look for the Show Notes for Episode 254, that's this one, then you'll find a bunch of these link and they'll be clearly labeled for you. But one of those YouTube videos is really great in terms of explaining what and showing what a natural playscape is like and what you can do with that.
Jenny Morgan: Great.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Now, of course, that's something that parents can do in their own backyards but we're starting to see communities incorporate natural playscapes as well. And I know some of our metro parks actually have these incorporated in. And again, where you'd mentioned you could go off the trail, I know over at Sharon Woods Metro Park in Westerville, there's a natural playscape area for kids.
So, do you see schools getting on board with this idea?
Jenny Morgan: I do. We have more requests from schools to learn about this. It's very exciting, very exciting.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. What about outdoor classrooms? I remember even when I was in school, really, this wasn't a big thing. You sort of kind of dream, "Wouldn't it be great in a nice Spring day if they could actually take us outside."
Jenny Morgan: Yeah.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Are we seeing outdoor classrooms becoming incorporated into the curriculum at all?
Jenny Morgan: I think we are. And the idea is to enhance the curriculum. I mean, you can take a class out. Let's say you have a garden out on your playground. The kids can write about the worms. They can write a little story or a poem. You know, you can have a bird feeder, you can have a butterfly garden. The idea again is that it's alive, it's ever changing. They're always wondering about it. You can do science experiments. So it's really to enhance the curriculum.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup.
Jenny Morgan: And it can be done, for sure.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Sure. And I expect that there would be a physical health benefits to these natural playscapes as well.
Dr. James McDonald: Yes. And some of them, we've touched on. But again, the studies typically point toward unstructured play being a greater chance for our children to achieve that one-hour mark. There's one study I want to pass on, it reflects on my own world of sports medicine.
I'll be really quick here. And I love sports, did a lot of it in my life. But there are limits to those sports. Because there are parents out there who they're kids may be in sports. But if that's the only thing they, do, they're not in their unstructured play, we might be missing the mark.
There was great a study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2010 who looked at 200 kids from age eight to 14 playing soccer or softball/baseball, boys and girls, put accelerometers on them for their one to two hour practice. The question was, what percentage of time did these kids achieve moderate to vigorous physical activity? The worst number were in baseball/softball. But none of the numbers were great. And the bottom line is, for instance, if you're a girl playing softball, two hour practice, you're 14 years old, you have an accelerometer on you, less than 5% of those girls achieved 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Wow.
Jenny Morgan: Yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: So, if we're just getting our kids playing sports, all too often, they're standing waiting to run to the cones. They're appropriate being subbed out to let other people play and so they're standing on the sidelines. That doesn't happen in this playscapes Jenny is talking about. It is almost unheard of to just, say, have a kid watch, if you ever go to one to one of those places and you just stand and watch, you're a hummingbird and you watch, these kids are not just sitting. They're running around. And studies have put accelerometers on these kids. If they're an hour out there, they're much closer an hour to that moderate-vigorous physical activity mark.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup.
Jenny, you've talked about gardens as an incorporation into outdoor classroom or these natural playscapes. We had talked here on the program a few weeks ago, in Australia, there's a program in the school where they have kitchen gardens where kids get involve in growing vegetables. And then, they use those vegetables in a cooking class to learn how to prepare different foods. And what the study showed was that kids who were involved with the growth of the vegetables right from the beginning were more likely to try new things and eat new things. So I think there's a nutritional benefit as well.
Dr. James McDonald: Yes. And three years ago, when we moved from California, there's a town called Davenport. We lived right by, they had one of these schools. And you're right, these were kids in, say, first grade going from planting to cultivating and all the outdoor activity that requires to ultimately harvesting and making their own food.
And so, on so many levels, they'd be outdoor, active when they're pulling weeds, right? They're learning about biology, they're understanding nature. At the end of the day, they're also getting some independence, like "I know how to cut off a shallot and fry it."
Jenny Morgan: Yeah.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: And then, have that reward, "I created this here, mommy, daddy" and get the positive feedback. The kitchen garden, the school garden, is I think a wonderful idea. You can bring a lot in there including science.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. I'd be happy if my kids knew what a shallot was.
Dr. Mike Patrick: It's an uphill battle for us at home. My son always remind me the injuries that I see when I worked in the emergency department. It's like, "Well, those kids aren't playing video games, are they dad?"
Dr. James McDonald: Right. Well, I see the repetitive motion…
Dr. Mike Patrick: Oh, you do.
Jenny Morgan: There you go. There you go.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: I see the carpal tunnel.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah. I said, "Just wait, the heart disease is what'll get you down the road."
Jenny Morgan: Yeah, that's right. That's right.
Dr. Mike Patrick: But you're right, yeah.
We talked a little bit about nature camps, Jenny, and the one that really sparked this idea for you to save that camp and to start the Central Ohio Collaborative. Talk a little bit about the importance of nature camps.
Jenny Morgan: It's certainly a subject near and dear to my heart. We could do a whole show on it, the benefits of sending your child to a nature camp.
I found a quote when I was doing some research on health benefits of nature camps for something else. And I wanted to read it. It's from 1922. It's from the president of Harvard — your alma mater, Dr. McDonald. He says, "The organized summer camp is the most important step in education that America has given the world."
And I think he's probably thinking about experiential learning. When you go to camp, you're not learning about geology from a book. You're walking on the rocks, you're feeling the fossils, you're walking on the sand from sandstones that has been disintegrating for thousands of years. Your sense are alive which always increases the effectiveness of teaching and learning.
But nature camps, in terms on their importance to the Leave No Child Inside Movement and getting kids reconnected with their natural world, I think nature camps — and I guess, specifically overnight camps — are the premiere child and nature experience, in my opinion. And why is that? I think because when a child goes to an overnight camp, they're immersed in nature. It's a full immersion experience.
And what does this do for a child? I can tell you, first hand. When I would come home from summer camp, and I would go for two weeks at a time, I would come home and I would watch TV and it would be so loud and so bright. When I'd go to the store, the overhead lights, I could hear them humming. And as I look back, I think the reason was because my sense were so heightened from being outside. And when I mean outside, I slept in cabins that had screens. And so, I was like I was outside for two weeks straight. And I fell in love with the sounds, the smells. So I mean, it's just… There are so many wonderful benefits.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup.
And I suspect that there's health benefits there as well.
Dr. James McDonald: Yeah, and forgive me, I don't know the hard data as well, specifically about nature camp. But I do, once again, think that we spend — we parents and myself — I can say my son will go to a basketball camp for part of this summer. I think as kids get older, maybe more adolescent, some of those camps get quite intense. So I would suggest your children out there doing two days in August football. You're probably getting a good one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
But especially the younger kids, I think we have to be careful for summers, for those of us privileged enough to have the ability to send a kid to camp, I would suggest that — you know, Jenny's comment — if I had to make an either-or decision, I'd be getting them into a nature camp before I'd be getting them into a basketball camp. If only for the physical benefit, if only for the activity that I am certain that they would get more of in the nature camp than they would in sport camp, at a young age.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Sure. And just being exposed to some different things outside of the family in terms of activities — canoeing, archery — they mean, they may find a passion for something that they just wouldn't have experienced otherwise.
Dr. James McDonald: It's true. And, you know, it's funny you said that, Mike. And I don't want to go way off on a tangent, but OK, in my world of sports medicine, concussions are booming, right? They're the second biggest diagnosis our organization sees now, our division sports medicine. It wasn't on the radar screen five years ago.
When I see these children, and they're may be a few days out and we're talking about what they can and cannot do. They're not in the sport anymore, they're not school. And I offer certain suggestions, it's really, really hard. Because mostly, what they do is get on these laptops, get on these video games, text, all of which they are not supposed to do early from a concussion. It's very hard and it can cause strain.
So I suggest, do you fish? Do you do archery? Can you go on a hike? You know, this is indoor. It doesn't have to be indoor. For some people like, do you crochet? None of these things, it seems kids do much of anymore.
Jenny Morgan: That's right.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: So they're stuck. So parents, poor things are like pulling their hair. It was like, "Well, what does he do?" I don't know. I don't know what to tell you. I can tell you what I'd like them to do. They may have not achieved those skills and then, the big question is why. And then, it falls back to us, on parents. I feel like if we have gotten to a certain age and the only thing our kids know how to do is get behind those screens, we failed them, because it will not sustain them in a way that nature will. And that kind of variety that Jenny's talking about, that will always be there for us if we don't completely mess it up.
Jenny Morgan: And doctor, you gave a couple of great quotes, two of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein and William Shakespeare, two great minds. And think of all the artists, and the poets and the musicians who had been inspired by nature. To think that our children are becoming alienated and not having this experience, it breaks my heart.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. James McDonald: Can I say one other thing? I'd been thinking about this a couple of times when you both have said things. I just want to throw this out there for the audience. Also, on my end, I'd like to say that a lot of it's about balance, right? It gets to some of the number you put out at the very beginning of the talk, Michael. That idea of, right now, an average American kids gets 7.5 hours before the screen and most of them have difficulty achieving one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
We are right now taking advantage of the glories of technology, right? This is a podcast. People later on can hit a YouTube to watch Jenny. There's so much great about technology. I think anyone who just looks at those numbers — 7.5 versus 1. It's about tipping the balance. Really, it should be 1 to 7.5, the other way.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. And you know, another thing with nature camps too during the summer, really, kids can get a lot of stress in their lives and it's really sort of de-stressing kind of event, too.
Jenny Morgan: Sure.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And then, one of the thing I wanted to mention about nature camps is just to put a plug in for the medical specialty camps that are out there. So for kids who have asthma or diabetes or maybe battling cancer, that there are a lot of specialty camps with medical professionals there but still be able to give kids a nature experience, even though they have a chronic medical condition.
Dr. James McDonald: Yes.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And folks can really, probably, through their local children's hospital to find resources in that respect.
Now, we talked a little bit about all these research. And I did also want to point parents to where they could find the actual research that kind of backs up some of the claims that Leave No Child Inside is making. Do you have any suggestions on that, Dr. McDonald?
Dr. James McDonald: Wow, I could send you links on PubMed to all the journal articles I've just mentioned.
Dr. James McDonald: It' just that Richard Louv in his books spends a considerable amount of time and thinking in a more lay-person-friendly way of talking about some of the issues that I brought up here, including for those who are more inclined to seek the hard data. But by all means I can send you the links. It's called PubMed, it's the website but it's their primary journal articles that's been talking about this.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah. And, actually, Richard Louv, as his site — the Children and Nature Network — there is a whole section on that website. It was kind of a trick question.
Dr. Mike Patrick: I apologize, I put you in the hot seat.
Dr. James McDonald: No, no, no. You've done your homework.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Where did you find your studies?
Dr. James McDonald: You've done your homework. Good job.
Dr. Mike Patrick: He does have a link that's called "Studies, Reports and Publications".
Dr. James McDonald: How fabulous.
Dr. Mike Patrick: And I'll put a note in the Show Notes to that as well. Folks should know about PubMed and it's really easy to do search term and look journal articles up there.
Dr. James McDonald: Absolutely.
Jenny Morgan: I see. I'd like that.
Dr. James McDonald: And Google Scholar, it's a fabulous tool if you want to find a journal article addressing whatever issue you have on your mind, whether it be this one that we're talking about or any other medical issue.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, absolutely.
Jenny, what future plans does the Central Ohio Collaborative have? What do you kind of envision in terms of the direction in the future?
Jenny Morgan: Well, we're right now in the beginning stages of brainstorming what mind be considered our first nature program — you know, going beyond educating and advocating. And that is, I have this vision of getting parents, teacher and doctors down to this camp that I attended and having like a two-day unplugged retreat and immersing these folks in nature for two nights. And at the same time, providing them with a Leave No Child Inside kind of one-on-one course. Kind of educating like we are today, and also providing them ideas on what's going on around the country to reconnect children and nature, maybe in the medical field and what are some teachers doing around the country, some best practices. And then, having them leave with some resources, so they can go back and integrate this into their work, into their lives, into any plans that they are making.
So that's kind of our vision right now, we're kind of in the beginning stages. Other than that, we just want to keep the conversation going. We want to keep inspiring anyone and everyone to take action on this issue.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup, absolutely. And we have lots of links for you. Again, over at pediacast.org, Episode 254, really just a veritable plethora of links this week.
So the Leave No Child Inside National Movement which is the Children In Nature Network, we'll have a link to that. There's also a link to the Ohio Collaboratives of Leave No Child Inside. And then, we'll also the links specifically to the Central Ohio Collaborative of Leave No Child Inside. So all of that is going to be in the Show Notes.
And then, in terms of YouTube videos, we have a Leave No Child Inside over View YouTube. Then the Jenny Morgan testimony that I was talking about with a map, that I alluded to of the area where you use to play as a kid and where typically kids play now; and then the playscapes and the nature camps YouTube videos. We even have a video with a Jack Hanna, they did a special message for you guys. I'll have a link to that in the Show Notes as well.
And then, Jenny, as I mentioned is a song writer and her music really has been inspired by the Leave No Child Inside Movement and featured in some of the YouTube videos and you can also pick up her music CD at her website. And I'll put a link to that in the Show Notes.
The National Wildlife Federation has a really cool site called the Be Out There Campaign and we'll put a link to that.
And then, we also have an article written by Richard Louv in Orion Magazine and I'll put a link to that in the Show Notes as well. And then, again, the link to the research studies, reports and publications, I'll put that in the Show Notes.
And if you're wondering more about those kitchen gardens, I'll put a link also to PediaCast 247, which is the episode where we talked about those.
So, like I said, lots of links and resources this week and it's easy for folks to find those over pediacast.org, Episode 254.
All right, well, thanks again to guests this week. Dr. Jim McDonald and Jenny Morgan, really, really appreciate you both stopping by today.
Dr. James McDonald: Had a wonderful time.
Jenny Morgan: Thank you so much.
Dr. Mike Patrick: Yup. And as we head into another break here, here's a quote, another one from naturalist Rachel Carson, "Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life."
Dr. Mike Patrick: All right, so my final word this week is a simple one. Really, it's just take heed of the message from Richard Louv and the Leave No Child Inside Movement. And in the words of Standing Bear, the famous Ponca chief, "Man's heart away from nature becomes hard."
So don't let your heart grow hard to nature. Get outside, build a playscape, go to a park, hike, bike, roller skate, climb hills, trek those streams. Turn off the video games and laptops and flat screens and mobile phones and reverse this terrible trend that has brought us to the place of kids spending 7 1/2 hours each day with electronics. That's just crazy. Get outside with your kids and see what nature has in store. And that's my final word.
Oh wait, one more quote and this one from Henry David Thoreau, "The voice of nature is always encouraging."
So I have a date with the family tonight. I think we're going to visit Highbanks Metro Park and try hiking to the observation platform in hopes of getting a glimpse of the bald eagles. We've seen their nests but they were away and we weren't able to see them. So, hopefully, we'll get a chance to do that. And after that, just to keep it real honest here, we may swing by Lane Avenue so I can hear another voice, this one saying, "Welcome to Moe's!"
All right, again, thanks to our listeners. We really appreciate all of you out there taking time to spend with us and being part of the PediaCast audience. Also, thanks to Dr. Jim McDonald's, sports medicine specialist at Nationwide Children, and Jenny Morgan, founder and co-chair of the Leave No Child Inside Central Ohio Collaborative.
Don't forget, iTunes reviews are helpful, as are links, mentions, shares, retweets, repins, all those things on the social media sites. PediaCast is on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest and be sure to tell your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers about the program.
Most importantly, tell your child's doctor. Next time you're in for a sick office visit or a well check-up, just say "I know this great evidence-based podcast out at Nationwide Children's that is focused on information for parents." And we do have posters available under the Resources tab at pediacast.org.
One more time, contact information, if you have a question for me or a topic idea or want to point me in the direction of a news story, just head over to pediacast.org and click on the Contact link. I see every single one of those that come through. I read everyone, and so just use that resource to get in touch with me.
We also have a relatively new resource on the website. At the end of every Show Note, there is a link that says Connect With a Pediatric Specialist, and it is just a form exclusive for PediaCast listeners. You can put in your contact information and the specialist that you're interested in seeing, their division will get back in touch with you and help you set up an appointment or answer any questions that you have. So just an easy way for you to connect to the specialist here at Nationwide Children's.
I also want to remind you, there's no show next week. So we're going to take a Memorial Day Break but we will be back in early June.
And until then, this is Dr. Mike saying stay safe, stay healthy, and stay involved with your kids.
So long everybody!
Announcer 2: This program is a production of Nationwide Children's. Thanks for listening! We'll see you next time on PediaCast.