Is it time to get dirty?
The Old Road is rapidly agin',
Please "Get Out" of the New ones if you can't understand,
The Times They Are A Changin'
With the Greenway extension to Turlough Park due to open shortly and with the opening up of Lough Lannagh to the public, there is a sense of a new leaf being turned of late.
Our rivers and lakes, like those around Castlebar have been there long before we shopped or even hunted but over time their significance have diminished. As industry and commerce ebbed and flowed, shaping our towns and villages, our rivers have kept on flowing though often relegated to the service of waste disposal.
The excitement of by-passes and roundabouts has long since waned and as if by some inexplicable reawakening people are starting to reconnect with their natural environment as if it was something new.
While our Natural Environment has always been there, it has taken a few innovative measures to make that environment more accessible. Paths, lighting and footbridges all serve to open up new areas to the public and make them more attractive. It is also enabling participation in new activities such as running, cycling and canoeing.
Bernard and Zane Joyce
In order for our local natural environment however to remain attractive particularly to our children, it needs to also offer challenge and engagement. American author Richard Louv in his book "Last Child in the Woods" has sparked a global debate of the impact of what he refers to as "Nature-Deficit-Disorder" and how an generation is no longer connected with nature.
The future will belong to the nature-smart-those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need."
Being out in Nature is a wonderful first step but as children and adults we all need to connect at a much deeper level. We need to get our feet wet and our hands dirty. We need to dig holes and roll down hills. We have to learn to take risks and teach our children about risks.
It will be too late to teach children about risk when they sit behind the wheel of their first car if they have been prevented in their formative years from taking risk.
In the past few years the Forest School Movement which has being facilitating play in Nature in the UK and Scandinavia is becoming popular in Ireland and is challenging us to look again at the best ways for children to play and learn.
For the past few years Bernard & Zane Joyce from Turlough have being running outdoor education activities for children and adults from their native woodlands and have been visiting primary schools to teach about the benefits of outdoor education through the Heritage in Schools Scheme. They will be offering Forest Schools Session later on this year as well as activities for families and wild food foraging courses.
If you want to find out more about Forest School and the Heritage in Schools Scheme, see http://natureschool.ie or Contact (094)9067080 / (087)2254698 firstname.lastname@example.org