other safe place to experience the out of doors, (according to Colorado Environmental Education Plan) and that nationally children spend 85 percent of their time indoors, (according to Environmental Education Matters, Colorado Environmental Education Leadership Council) finding the time to bring children to natural spaces becomes even more important. PROVIDING HOPE FOR THE FUTURE By providing both structured and unstructured time in places more wild than not, we are providing hope for the future. The CEEP also states that “ . . . Colorado students need to be prepared to address present and future environmental challenges and innovations that impact quality of life. Colorado’s environment, economy, and communities depend on informed citizens who can make decisions . . . “ What better way to do this than by supplying a wide range of outdoor experiences for our children that teach concepts, build capacities, and allow time to simply be? We can’t protect or fight for that with which we do not have a connection. Luckily for families in Colorado, myriad resources are available for connecting children and adults with both structured and unstructured time in places more wild than not. One glance at the Rocky Mountain Parent camp guide and it’s easy to see just how many programs provide the structured piece of the equation. The Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education (CAEE), while focused mainly on connecting various environmental educators with each other and other EE resources, is a great place to contact if you’re looking for a particular type of outdoor educational experience. Indeed, thanks to the support behind the Colorado Environmental Education Plan, CAEE is working across the state to create a comprehensive inventory of all types of environmental education providers and programs. FINDING TIME FOR EXPERIENCES IN NATURE The other piece of the equation, finding time and space for unstructured experiences in nature, is so simple it may actually feel daunting. As parents and
caretakers we get so used to creating activities, safe places, and time frames for our children that to shed those impulses may take a bit of unlearning on our part. Start by finding a place that inspires you personally, that speaks to something your family values, or that is physically close. While there may be a neighborhood park that has a uniquely untouched corner, I encourage you to broaden your scope to include city, county, or state designated Natural Areas, the foothills, and up into the mountains. Strive for a place without signs, a paved trail, or other prescriptive aspects, even if only in part. Remember, this part of the equation is about allowing for unstructured experience in an unstructured place. Set aside a chunk of time to spend there and then . . . just be. My own children are now 6 and 9. With the heat and sunshine of summer ahead, I look forward to not planning each of their days. I hope to provide the gift of unstructured time peppered with some of the amazing environmental education programs along the Front Range. Some days I may ask my kids about the shapes they hear while we walk or sit, but I hope that I can silence my need to fill the space long enough for them to experience that space as their own. Our future depends on it.
Hillary Mizia is Executive Director at Shadowcliff, a seasonal not-forprofit sustainability education lodge in Grand Lake, and runs sustainability consulting firm PriZm Sustainability. She and her family live, work, and play in Fort Collins.
Reading up on environmental education Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, www.caee.org Colorado Environmental Education Plan www.caee.org/sites/default/files/ Colorado%20EE%20Plan%20Final2.pdf Environmental Education Matters, Colorado Environmental Education Leadership Council, www.caee.org/sites/default/files/ EE%20Vertical%20One%20Pager%20 FINAL%2012-31-14%20%281%29.pdf The Roots of Environmental Education: How the Past Supports the Future. McCrea, Edward, http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ ED491084.pdf) Why Waldorf Works, Association of Waldorf Schools North America, www.why waldorfworks.org/02_w_education/
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