Sunday, June 22, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 6-26-08
Jeff Gill

No Child Left Inside – Sounds Good To Me!

Get ‘em up, get ‘em out, get ‘em bit.

Here’s my thought: can we just declare Tuesday, August 12, “No Child Left Inside Day” for Licking County?

Oh, you ask, is there a special program or event or planned activity on that date?


That would be the point. No agenda or checklist, just kids and everything that isn’t under a roof and within HVAC serviced walls.

To be fair, I’m swiping this idea from the good folks with Project Learning Tree and their website, supported by the Environmental Education Council of Ohio at

Their concern is to keep environmental education at the forefront of thinking about formal, classroom education and curricula, and I support them in their admirable endeavours. We’ve all been motivated and inspired by Richard Louv’s necessary book “Last Child In the Woods,” but that’s exactly why I’d like to suggest a Licking County “No Child Left Inside” on a Tuesday, before school starts in those classrooms, with no formal program at all.

Louv’s useful and worrisome account shows how we’ve somehow let ourselves become convinced that children are at more danger from random violence, vicious animals, and Lyme disease out roaming the woodlots and fields, than they might be endangered by the effects of sloth and obesity and sedentary electronic numbness – and I don’t just mean in their hind ends.

Just as we’ve learned the hazards of making playgrounds so safe kids no longer want to play on them, leading to lack of exercise or activity which is truly dangerous in a subtle but very real way, we need to get real about Nature.

Nature is all around us and inside our bloodstream and yes, even under our fingernails even with antibacterial soap. We need to get comfortable with soil and moss and bark and rocks again, let alone worms and mantises (yes, that creature in “Kung Fu Panda” actually exists!) and know how to behave around opossums and raccoons and even deer.

Yeah, deer. I’m fine with hunting them, but for the foreseeable future we will share our neighborhoods and our hosta with them. Do our kids know how to move around and respond to an apparently tame deer (hint: they aren’t, and their hooves can disembowel you if you aren’t careful).

Animals of all sorts deserve care and respect, which I think can include a compound bow on occasion (if you don’t believe me, watch the first five minutes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Russell Means in “The Last of the Mohicans,” a sequence that will earn the respect of a committed vegan). Kids deserve the chance to encounter Nature writ small in order to develop a proper respect of her larger manifestations, whether cervids or cyclones.

So I want to suggest this simple idea – make Tuesday, August 12 a day when we all commit to making sure that every kid spends some time outdoors, gets their knees dirty, and brings a rock home in their pockets. I’ll have some further suggestions in future weeks, but what about it? “No Child Left Inside Day” for Licking County.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your “Wild Kingdom” moment at

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