The WOODS Manual!
The Center Leader Notebook
Wilderness Outdoor Opportunities for Durham Students
For Gender, Ethnicity and Landscape
Prof. Sally Shauman
An analysis of outdoor opportunities in Durham public schools
A second grade teacher took her class to the Museum of Life and Science. When they entered the butterfly house the students immediately attempted to kill the butterflies. The teacher exclaimed, "WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING? These creatures are beautiful things why are trying to kill them? " The students responded, "But they were going to try and sting us. "
The incident brings us to:
WOODS (Wilderness Outdoor Opportunities for Durham Students)
The best thing in the Triangle area
The children I play with once a week come from different backgrounds than my own. Often both their parents work during their afterschool time and usually they are not forced to go outside like I was. By the age of seven they are more in tune with pop culture than I was. They know Pokemon creatures by name, but can not identify different bugs like I could. I was given the same opportunities as a boy but I am an exception to the norm. Finally these children have cultural pressures that I didn't have. These factors all work together to create barriers against these children spending time outdoors.
(An article in Science describes how kids today can identify over 150 pokemon characters but have difficult identify in common birds, plants, and insects. The analysis also indicates that this is a relatively new phenomenon.)
Why should children spend time outside?
Children need to spend time outside because we have a Biophilic connection to the natural environment. E.O. Wilson describes this connection as an innate desire to spend time in an outdoor environment as well as a tendency to want to spend time with other lifeforrns beside ourselves (Wilson and Kellert). This implies that we have an evolutionary or genetic base for our connection to the natural world. If this hypothesis holds true then what does it mean when children today spend less time outside than they did in the past?
Perhaps our existence on this earth is not explained to western philosophy. Western thought proposes that human intellect and reason makes us radically different and separate from other lifeforrns. David Abram makes the argument that "our rational soul" does not free us from the natural world around us but in fact " human intellect is rooted in, and secretly borne by, our forgotten contact with the multiple nonhuman shapes that surround us" (47). We are beings that experience and perceive that world through our senses. Our bodies are continually in flux as to how we relate to the world. We are not machines but creatures that respond when we smell the ocean, catch a glimps of a grasshopper, or experience a tree. Our bodies continually adjusts themselves to the natural world as if they were dancing with the fluid landscape in which it inhabits.
Sallie McFague's makes an additional argument for a model of the world where we would treat the other as subject and not just an object which we use for our benefit. She refers to this model as subject/subject. In her book she states that our culture has constructed a world where we objectify and create a-dualism with nature. She argues that this in fact is not the way the world truly exists. Like Abram, she speaks of how we are relational creatures and our perception and experience of the world is truly all that we can be. As she puts it, "Our relationship with nature is like our relationship with our own bodies, we can live only in and through them, we are intrinsically and entirely embodies and yet, we can distance ourselves from them have many different view of them [but still there is that oneness]. " She adds to Abram's argument that we are relational creatures but as rational beings we have a choice and therefore should opt for a subject/ subject model of the world. Such a model makes sense, as it is one where we do not put ourselves in position of power or objectivity. Instead we stop, stand still and appreciate what we perceive. She is saying something that I firmly believe in, simple acknowledgement and respect for the other as a fellow subject can change not only how we treat our landscape but how we treat other people. Those that treat their world with appreciation probably also treat other people with this same respect. Where else can we achieve this acknowledgement and respect than an outdoor setting?
It is apparent from the arguments above that we can not deny ourselves interaction with the natural world. We can also pose the theory that spending time outside increases physical and emotional health. From spending much time with children and also from reading about others' experiences with children (see The Geography of Childhood by Paul Nabhaln and Stephen Trimble), it is evident that just running around, which is highly likely to happen outside, has physically benefits. It also seems obvious that people tend to be happier outdoors. There is more sunlight, room to move, exciting things to look at, and places to explore. There are studies that suggest outdoor settings have positive health benefits. For instance, surveys have found that spending time outdoors helps people cope with stress. Also it has been found that "states as "relaxation” and “peacefulness" are associated with exposure to settings having savanna like properties or a water feature " (Ulrich in Wilson and Kellert, 101). There is some but not a great deal written on how the natural world can benefit our physiological and emotional health. Based on this lack of data, I would still like to assume that there could be health benefits from spending time outdoors that we have yet to discover. For instance in the natural world people often have very positive experiences. In Primative Passions written by Marianna Torgovnick, Malinowski describes one of his outdoor experiences as "letting myself dissolve in the landscape, " " moments when you merge with objective reality -true nirvana. " ( 4). It would only make sense that experiences like these have positive health benefits but there has been little written on what these benefits may be.
From the above discussion two things are evident. As humans we relate to the natural world and perhaps are deeply dependant on it, but we have little knowledge of how we exactly benefit from this world and/or how, precisely, we relate to it. As Sandra Steingraber points out it is very plausible that our relation to this world goes so deep that "we are the food we eat. " What she means by this is "the molecules of the water earth and ajr that rearrange themselves to form these beans and kernels' are the molecules that eventually become the tissues of our bodies. You have eaten food that was grown here. You are the food that is grown here. You are walking on familiar ground " (3 ). Like the other scholars, she is describing a need to acknowledge and respect the natural life that intersects with our lives. What better way to increase our understanding about our world than by spending time there?
A three step implementation of Outdoor Opportunities in Durham Schools.
In the classroom --SEEDS hands on outdoor education facilitated with an edible garden. Students spend time outside, grow their own food, learn school subjects such as science (water cycle, life cycle etc), history (create a freedom quilt out of plants), and finally have opportunity for artist expression. Example --Lakewood Elementary --2nd grade class involvement in the SEEDS gardening program
Afterschool-- WOODS. Duke students visit Durham public school afterschool programs, giving the students a change of pace and an opportunity to run around outside. This time is less structured than a classroom setting but a considerable amount of time is spent planning what each day's activities and themes are going to be. The end result --kids spending time outside. Example- Lakewood elementary afterschool program.
At recess --The playground --During breaks in the school day opportunity is created for children to spend time in an outdoor environment. This time is does not have the structure of a classroom or an afterschool program. As a result it is a time when these students truly have the chance to explore. This is a time when they can enjoy spending time in such a place as a refuge, or a place they can move around a lot, or a place that they can hang out with their friends. Example -The school grounds at Southern Pines Elementary.
A final thought
To further record the importance of outdoor opportunities, there is the argument that wilderness outdoor opportunities for Durham students is both the big picture and the small picture.
Having endless opportunities to go outside should be easily available to all
children. But just like fighting loss of habitat, air pollution, overfishing,
or any other “giant environment problem" creating this opportunity
for all children seems almost impossible. Tackling these problems on a large
scale seems daunting and this creates the necessity to tackle it in small increments.
As mentioned before, Durham students have certain barriers that prevent them from experiencing the outdoors. WOODS is one way in which this barrier is broken. WOODS allows children to run around, to play tag, to experience the world around them, to go different places like the Eno River, and just to have fun outside. For the Duke student, there is immediate gratification in what has been accomplished. The children are having fun and doing something important. It is worthwhile to note that one of the reasons the children are having this good time is because it is with Duke students who fall somewhere in the middle of grownup and child age bracts.
This brings me to final point of why WOODS is the best thing in the Triangle area. It creates the same opportunities for the Duke student as it does for the Durham students. WOODS brings me outside, it is experiencing the world around me. It is an off campus setting where I feel free, and just as important --it is fun.
Finally I take all this into consideration when thinking of an envriomnental care ethic. Spending time with children in an outside environment is a highly valued part of my life. For me, it is a way to work on the big picture (getting kids outside) but it also has the enjoyment and results of the small picture (we have a good time). This follows with my belief that enjoying what you are doing in itself can accomplish a lot.
Abram, David. The Spell of the Semlous, Vintage Books, New York, 1996, 44 -53 . McFague, Sal~ie. Super, Natural Christians, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1997.
Nabhan, Gary P, and Trimble, Stephen. The GeographyofChildhood, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994. Steingraber, Sander. Living Downstream, Addison- Wesley Publishing Company, Inc, New York, 1997. Torgovnick, Marianna. Primitive Passions, The University ofChicago Press, Chicago, 1997, pp. 3-19. Ulrich, Roger S. "Biophilia, Biophobia, and Natural Landscapes," in BiophiliaHypothesi.S', edited by S.R
Kellert and E. 0. Wilson, Island Press, Washington D.C, 1993.
Wislon, E.O. "Biophilia and the conservation ethic," in Biophilia Hypothesis, edited by S.R Kellert and E: 0. Wilson, Island Press, Washington D.C, 1993.
1. An Introduction (Abby Horn)
2. The Center Leader (Joe Picoraro)
3. Objectives (Justin McCorcle and Tes Rivera)
4. A Perspective (Maggie Schneider)
5. A List of Activities (Abby Horn) [See full pdf version]
6. Arts and Crafts Ideas (Julie Griffin)
7. Conflict Intervention Strategies (from Camp Ketcha) [See full pdf version]
9. Permission Slip (a .doc file)