Evergreen Brick Works programs help combat Toronto kids’ ‘nature deficit’ – thestar.com

21/08/2012 6:06
Evergreen Brick Works programs help combat Toronto kids’ ‘nature deficit’ – thestar.com

“How many city kids do you know who’ve caught a frog? Seen a deer bed? Identified, picked and tasted edible flowers?” The short answer is bugger all.

Unless it’s in a picture on the internet or presented as a new flavour for Roll-ups then it doesn’t exist for most of them. I’d love to see more of these activities available to city children. When I was young (aeons ago) we got to go to Sport and Recreation camps that included the mandatory bivouac.

As far as I know these camps are still available for children (ages 7-17) however they have to want to be there/be allowed to go. Between Gymboree/toddler language lessons/ toddler Ipad classes and the ever present (but unsubstantiated) “Stranger Danger” most city based children will never know this aspect of life. Sad, but true.  

The full article can be read from the link above 

How many city kids do you know who’ve caught a frog? Seen a deer bed? Identified, picked and tasted edible flowers?

Probably not many — if any at all. And as children grow up increasingly indoors, the lack of time spent outside has even been given its own name — “nature deficit disorder.”

Connecting kids with the environment is something Evergreen Brick Works encourages — offering space for them to explore and to take part in programs and summer camps that take advantage of the space it occupies along the Don River valley.

“The design of Chimney Court (the main children’s area) took all of that research and other types of research into consideration,” says Heidi Campbell, landscape design consultant who works at Evergreen, referring to the work of Richard Louv on the nature deficit and its effects on children.

In the nice weather, ample spaces with natural shading are available along with winding trails that lead to frog bogs, deer beds, plenty of trees, and gardens.

Heading into the forest gives kids a lesson in natural air-conditioning.

“It’s 10 degrees cooler — that’s a fact,” Campbell says. “Tree canopies, specifically trees in groupings” make it cooler. “We get the kids to measure that, too.”

In the winter, “we extend the time by cooking outdoors, providing heat through fires. It’s important to have a fire pit — kids can come out and build a snow sculpture . . .

“Children are pretty resilient out there, but the added element of sitting around a campfire, drying their mittens on sticks, is a whole extension of the outdoor experience.”

Because of the lands around the Brick Works, kids do a lot of frog hunting, searching for turtles and snakes. “It’s all catch and release,” Campbell says.

“They do a natural exploration out there on the trails, then bring their stories back to Chimney Court,” which is an exploratory area for kids, centred around a 60-metre-high chimney that was used in the old brick-making factory. It is used for summer camps but is open to families on weekends.

The area also boasts edible plants, temporary shelters, and a Turkish yurt, donated by Occupy Toronto activists who used the felt hut during their downtown protest last year.

Campbell has helped several schools in the city create natural playgrounds, starting small with food gardens and smaller projects. “The other thing we’re hoping will really pick up momentum in the next five years is nature study areas,” she says.

“This is an important concept . . . we like to encourage schools, if they have the space, to stop mowing. The kids watch what happens; they see things growing, what kind of life comes to the area.”

At least 15 Toronto District School Board schools are taking part.

An Evergreen poll found that more than 80 per cent of Canadians are concerned about young people’s lack of outdoor exploration and play.

Tess Michaels