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Archive for April, 2014

Unlike the posts that have gone before, this post is more about the “how” of connecting with nature rather than the “why”. I believe that we all harbour a desire, strong or otherwise, to claim our wildness and nurture our biophilia – to connect with nature in other words.

We know intuitively that connecting with nature is “good for us”. But what is missing from most people’s awareness, I suspect, is the knowledge of just how comprehensive and far-reaching nature’s “goodness” can be.

In writing this blog and my book, Claim Your Wildness, I have tried to share this knowledge in a way that is meaningful, useful and, hopefully, inspiring. If I have managed to convey that being connected with nature is a core ingredient of a healthy and fulfilled life, then I am very pleased.

But knowing the importance of being connected with nature is one thing, having a down-to-earth, practical understanding of how to make nature part of daily life is quite another. It is all very well to carry on about “nurturing your biophilia” and “claiming your wildness”, but these will remain rather waffly ideas rather than signposts for action unless they are described in real-life terms.

When I set out to do this for myself I was greatly helped by the architectural and urban planning concept of “biophilic design”. The aim of biophilic design is to create buildings and urban outdoor spaces with features that provide biophilic experiences and benefits. One very helpful account of biophilic design that I found lists both the various sought-after features and the experience they provide, for example: Home-Natural-Lighting

Feature: natural light that is constantly changing in direction and intensity

Experience: changing patterns of shadow and brightness, dappling

Presented this way, the list paints a picture of what biophilia looks like in practice. It is a simple matter to use the list to conduct a personal biophilic stock-take.

I have done this by making each of the 10 biophilic design features in the list into a question. The result is this personal Biophilia Questionnaire:

1. Do I experience natural light that is constantly changing in direction and intensity?

2. Do I experience natural ventilation?

3. Do I have access to open and moving water?

4. Do I have opportunities, by way of gardens and other amenities, for spontaneous interaction with nature?

5. Do I have sensory stimulation from natural sources?

6. Do I experience the natural world’s complexity and order?

7. Do I experience the excitement of exploration and discovery in nature?

8. Do I experience views of natural features from positions of safety and security?

9. Do I experience different forms of natural beauty?

10. Do I experience the integrity and authenticity of natural places (in the way natural materials have been used in urban buildings and parks, for example)?

You might like to take a moment to think about these questions yourself – in relation to your home, place of work, recreation, for example. (If you do, please think about leaving a comment about how it worked for you.)

You may find that you are more connected with nature than you thought. Or you may discover that there are nature contacts already in your life that you could easily expand. You could also find that access to biophilic experiences is more convenient than you might have assumed. In settings like the one in the next photo, for example, almost all of the biophilic design features can be enjoyed. biophilic design moving water

Even if you find that your stock of biophilic experiences is currently lower than you would like, the questions can help you change the situation. Just use “How can” (rather than “Do”) to begin each question and you have a comprehensive Biophilia Planning Guide.

Changing the questions in this way may be all that is needed to help you think of ways to be more of a biophilic person. But even if it doesn’t, don’t be discouraged. A theme I want to dwell on in the posts to come is that there are biophilic of “green” activities for everyone. What could be simpler than pausing regularly to admire neighbourhood gardens, for example, or setting aside time to walk or just sit in the local park? green exercise 2admiring a flower

 

Watch this space, as they say.

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I have just come across a commentary in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia entitled,FMS cartoon “Australian children lack the basic movement skills to be active and healthy”.

This is an alarming message to say the least, all the more so because it is based on reliable evidence.

The authors of the commentary are all health professionals, mainly academics, writing on behalf of the Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Stream of the Australasian Child and Adolescent Obesity Research Network (ACAORN).

The basic (or fundamental) movement skills (FMS) they are talking about are those required for activities like running, jumping, throwing, kicking, balancing and twisting. These skills provide the foundation for a physically active lifestyle.

Children who are proficient at FMS are more likely to be physically active and have adequate cardiovascular fitness and are less likely to be overweight or obese compared with children who are not proficient.

The best time to develop proficiency in FMS is during early childhood and primary school. It is not just a matter of simply being able to perform the skills at some basic level. Proficiency refers to both the outcome and the quality of performance – to running efficiently as well as running fast, for example. Both aspects of proficiency – the outcome and the “how” – can now be now assessed scientifically.Object control skills assessment

Assessments of the FMS of Australian children and adolescents paint a very worrying picture. For example,

  • approximately two-thirds of year 6 children in NSW are not proficient at loco-motor skills such as running, jumping and hopping;
  • two-thirds of girls and one-quarter of boys have low proficiency in object control skills like throwing and kicking.

Findings like these are telling us that many Australian kids do indeed “lack the basic movement skills to be active and healthy”.

The ideal way to acquire these skills is though unstructured play in settings where there is plenty of space, scope for vigorous games and suitable objects to play on, in and with. Nature play fills the bill very nicely.

Chasings a Who needs playground eqiupmentLockie and Henry Another caving shot

 

 

Deteriorating child and adolescent health is a major problem facing the Australian community. The facts speak for themselves:

  • 85% of Australian adolescents do not meet the National Physical Activity Recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day;
  • one-quarter are overweight or obese; and
  • one-third have inadequate cardiorespiratory fitness.

As the authors of the commentary say,

Urgent action is needed to ensure all Australian children are provided with the opportunity to develop competence and confidence in FMS that will help them be active, fit and of a healthy weight.

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