Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Preserving Our Connection to This Land

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Preserving Our Connection to This Land

Article excerpt

July is a special time of year for people in the United States. A few short days into the month, we celebrate the independence of our nation with fireworks, picnics and more. As summer really begins to sizzle, many people spend more time outside than they do during the rest of the year. Families take vacations, kids are out of school and outdoor recreation is big business. Summer is special for parks and recreation professionals because exciting outdoor programming is underway and participation is at its peak.

While news and research indicates children are spending less and less time outside, the summer months serve as an exception to this modern rule. Outdoor recreation is in high gear for youth whether at swimming pools, backyards, summer camps or parks. Summer is often the time many kids begin to cultivate their connection to nature and the many vast open green spaces the United States has to offer.

While the physiological, psychological and social benefits of kids being outside are well documented, an additional benefit is perhaps overlooked. Getting our children outdoors and engaged with nature creates a connection to our national values and practice of preserving sacred places. A short moment spent reminiscing about childhood summers probably recalls memories of picnics, smells of cut grass and ice cream. It is important to also consider, however, where these memorable moments took place. These authors would venture to guess many readers' special memories are set in back yards, local lakes, forests, swimming pools and parks--scared places.

As the pinnacle celebration of patriotism gears up, we must ask ourselves: Are we cultivating a sense of why this land is so dear to us, and are we passing that along to new generations?

There is no doubt outdoor recreation improves a child's well-being, but it is also vital in creating a sense of pride, stewardship and gratuity for our natural spaces. Taking children to America's sacred places provides an opportunity to recreate outdoors and a chance to understand how these historical, cultural and/or natural areas define what America was, is and can be.

These unique places preserve the essence of America and are special to each of us. It is time for park and recreation professionals to add another justification for getting our nation's youth outdoors--children need outdoor recreation experiences to help develop their sense of national pride. …

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