Brainstorm Session: How do we make Outdoor Activities more Accessible to all Children in Madison?

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015
100State
30 W. Mifflin Street, 6th floor (Next to Veterans Museum)
Free and open to the public
Register via Facebook or email getkidsoutside@gmail.com.

Join Diane Schwartz, founder of Get Kids Outside to brainstorm ways to get Madison’s youth of color engaged in the outdoors. What are the barriers? What do we need to succeed? How can we make Madison’s abundant natural resources available to all? What kind of structures do we need to support this? 
Background
Madison is at a turning point. In Our Madison Plan, Justified Anger named Family and Community Wellness as one of five goals. To achieve this goal will take many hands. Get Kids Outside believes that healthy outdoor activities is a big part of the solution. We know that hiking, biking, birdwatching, skiing or just sitting and playing in nature, lowers anxieties, helps kids focus in school, and facilitates lifelong health. Now, how do we get this done?
Please come and share your ideas. Let’s start an outdoor revolution in Madison.

Community Firefly Hike at Indian Lake County Park

https---img.evbuc.com-https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.evbuc.com%2Fimages%2F13987661%2F146095196473%2F1%2Foriginal8183 Hwy 19, Cross Plains
July 11, 2015
7:30-10 p.m. 

Let the kids stay up late tonight.

Join Get Kids Outside on an easy hike and then cook some marshmallows and make a firefly craft while we wait for the show. Why do they blink? What makes them glow? We may even catch a few. Bring water, bug dope, a flashlight and a clear container for catching bugs if you like. Hike starts at 7:30 p.m. from the parking lot. Cost is $5 per person, $15 for family of four. Tickets are available at https://fireflyhike.eventbrite.com. Contact Diane Schwartz at 608-358-8314, getkidsoutside@gmail.com. Click here for map. 

Get Kids Outside believes that nature is the greatest healer and teacher. We create community through public hikes and events that heal our hearts, calm our minds, and remind us that we are more alike than different. We provide outdoor opportunities that increase health and wellness and promote learning among children and families of color. All proceeds will provide more outdoor opportunities for kids. If you are inspired by this work, please donate

The Night Primeval at Cherokee Marsh: Christ the Solid Rock and Madison Audubon Society

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When the marsh wakes up, it does so with a riot of prehistoric sounds. Cranes bugle. Chorus frogs sing, blackbirds scold, and the woodcock peents, just like they have done for thousands of years. Even if you never see anything, the sounds tell us that life is everywhere. On April 17, members of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church joined the Madison Audubon Society on their annual flight of the woodcock hike at Cherokee Marsh.

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The American Woodcock.

The woodcock is a funny little bird that has an elaborate mating dance. First, he walks around on the ground and makes a buzzy, peenting sound. Then, he darts into the air about 200 feet. On the way back down, he twists and twirls all the while whistling and fluttering his wings. It’s quite the visual and auditory spectacle and well worth a trip to the marsh just for the possibility of seeing this bird. I had promoted this trip to the church as a woodcock hike, so I was hoping that he would perform. I had my fingers crossed. Like clockwork, the male woodcock started peenting at 8:15 p.m. He was about 75 yards away so we couldn’t see him on the ground. Last year, he stood right on the trail about 25 yards away so we all got a good look at him through the spotting scope. Levi Wood, the Audubon guide, suspected that a recent prescribed burn opened up a lot more peenting territory making the manicured trail less attractive. It was too dark to see him flying, but we heard him twittering on the way down. When a bat flew by, we thought for a moment it was the woodcock, but no luck. Despite not seeing the little bird with the big peent, it was still a magical night. Just being present to this annual ritual is a gift, especially when that gift is shared with others. What did the kids think? They weren’t too impressed with the woodcock, mainly because they couldn’t see him. They were much more impressed with an American toad that hopped across the path. A boy picked him up so everyone got a good look. We also talked a lot about snakes and saw a really tiny brown snake slither through the grass. One girl was pretty freaked out about the snakes, but I assured her that snakes will not harm her. If I did this hike again with kids, I might play the video for them in advance so that they knew what to listen for. It takes time to hone listening skills and patience. Bird watching is great for that. Kids need to learn that real nature doesn’t always meet our expectations. That may be disappointing at first, but it makes the moment of discovery that much sweeter. Plus now, we have a reason to go back again next year. The woodcock dances through the first part of May. Diane Schwartz lead outings at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison, Wisconsin. To volunteer, contact Diane at getkidsoutside@gmail.com. 

How to Make Hot Chocolate Outside!

Winter and hot chocolate go together.
This year, enjoy hot chocolate while you’re playing outside.
We cook outside during the summer so why not winter?
There is nothing better and your kids will remember it forever.

It’s easy and fun.

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You will need: images
1. Portable Coleman Stove or similar with fuel
2. Pan for water
3. Cups
4. Lighter or matches
5. Cocoa mix
6. Water
7. Spoons
8. Towels/rags to clean up spills (optional)

You can buy small gas stoves at REI, Dicks, Target or any outdoor supply store for about $30. Portable stoves are easy to use and you’ll have hot water within minutes. Propane stoves like the one shown are great because you don’t have the mess of fuel.

DSC00093Put all your supplies into a plastic bin to transport to your event. If there isn’t a picnic table handy, search for a flat rock or create a place in the snow for your stove. The kids can make a spot for you. When you’re ready, fire up the stove and serve. I always recommend that you let the kids work up a sweat first before enjoying the drink. They’ll appreciate it more and they’ll be warm enough to stand around for a few minutes.

If you’re worried about your hands getting cold, just pop a hand warmer in your pocket. You can buy 6 pair for about $10 or individual packs for $1. Why suffer with cold hands when there’s an easy solution?

By creating wonderful outdoor experiences, kids are more likely to get off the couch and into the outdoors. Watch this video of two young people enjoying their first outdoor hot cocoa. You can tell that they’re having a blast and you can bet that more people will come on the next trip.

You can find Diane planning for her next trip at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church on Madison’s east side. 

“Go Play Outside” – Easy Tips for busy parents to get their kids outside

go-outside-cartoon“Go play outside.”

It’s so simple you would think that all parents would do it.

But they don’t.

As parents, you have the most influence on your child.

Here are few tips to encourage outdoor play that do not take much time, energy or money.

1. Tell you Your Kids to “Go Play Outside”
Yes, it’s that simple. Today, you may have to turn off the computer or television and make it a mandate. If you’re afraid to let your kids play outside because of bullies or other dangers, then you will need to find ways to help you child get outside. Ask yourself if the fear is real or perceived. Many cities are safer today than ever before, but it doesn’t feel that way because of exaggerated media coverage of crime. I don’t mean to undermine truly dangerous situations, but from what I’ve seen, many parents lock their kids inside for no reason. And yes, you can teach your child how to be safe. Go to Free Range Kids for tips on how other parents faced their fear and let their children go.

2. Show enthusiasm: If you’re driving down the road, encourage your kids to look for hawks and other birds on the electric wires and sign posts. If you spot a large bird or animal, pull over and check it out (if you have time). Show them that you’re excited about the animal and open up a conversation. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what it is. You can always look it up later. If you’ve got a camera handy, take a snap shot and post it on Facebook or take it to school. You’re sure to get others to help you with identification.

3. Be curious: If you show curiosity about the natural world, so will your kids. Ask questions like, “What under that log? Why do you think they live there? How does a bird fly? Can you find a worm? A beetle? Where do animals go in the winter?  Pose questions and encourage your children to search for the answers. Focus on the search and not on getting the correct answer. Make it a game.

4. Encourage imagination: One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to play with ants. I imagined myself as a tiny person running among the ants. I imagined my world getting turned upside down in an instant by the rain or the wind. I marveled at how quickly the ants rebuilt their homes after destruction. Lead by example by showing imagination for the natural world. Imagine that you’re a bird, raccoon or squirrel. What would that be like? Talk with your kids about this. They will love it.

5. Keep a magnifying lens handy: Even the most ordinary of things looks really neat when enlarged. Magnify a seed, a blade of grass, or show your kids how to light a fire from the sun (if appropriate). There are countless things you can do with a magnifying lens. Also keep a few small boxes on hand for placing specimens and objects found outside.

6. Use binoculars:  Want to get a better view of a bird or that squirrel that visits the backyard or playground?  You can get an inexpensive pair of binoculars for your kids that lets them see things closer. This will entice them to learn more.

7. Plant a garden:  Dig up a small patch of ground and let your child plant a few seed. If you rent, ask the landlord of you can do this. It doesn’t need to be a large patch. Just enough to grow a few beans or flowers. Your child can water, weed and enjoy the garden all summer.

8. Use child size tools:  In snow country, get your child a pint-sized shovel so that they can help with snow removal. Kids love to help and this is a great way to spend time with your child. You can also get pint-sized shovels and hand tools or just use old spoons to dig in the ground.

These are just few ideas for getting your kids outside that don’t need a lot of your time. Encourage them to explore on their own and they’ll become independent kids who are not afraid of the world.

What do you do to encourage your kids to get outside? 

Links:

Birding Tips for Families
Operation Deer Watch
Bald Eagle Watching in Wisconsin
Eagle Watching in Prairie du Chien, WI
The Children and Nature Network
Free Range Kids

You can find Diane

5 Tips for Making Going Outside a Habit

Guest Post by Rachel Thomas

ImageSince my children were very small we have made it a habit to spend as much time outside as possible, but it’s not always easy.

Our schedules are hectic and technology is such that most of us hardly even think about going outside. It seems our attention is either on our computers, our phones, or the television when we are home. Our children’s health and our health as a country is deteriorating and we really need to start making it a habit to spend more time out-of-doors as a family. Here are few ideas that for getting your kids outside that have worked for me.

1. Play Outside Every Day When my kids were small, we made a point of playing in the yard every day. We would swing, play catch, or they would ride around the driveway on their tricycles or get some sidewalk chalk and do some art work. I even taught them the art of making mud pies which was one of my favorite pastimes when I was small. Momma would set me on a towel and we would dig up some dirt, mix it with water, and make pretend pies in mom’s old pie tins. Sometimes we had an old box that we used as an oven and baked our pies for supper. Momma was always thinking of ways to get us involved in outdoor activities and since I loved to help her in the kitchen she knew I would enjoy this activity.

2. Plant a garden
Every year we would plant a garden and momma would let us pick out one vegetable we wanted to grow. It was so much fun planting and watering our vegetable and even more fun when it grew and started producing. It is a wondrous thing for a young child to watch plants as they grow. Even if you have never gardened, it is still something you and your kids can have fun learning together. I will never forget my first vegetable, which was corn; I planted it and watched it grow so tall and strong. There is nothing like eating something that you grew yourself. My children wanted to grow their own trees so that is what we started with. We planted a peach, pear and a kumquat tree and the children were so thrilled when their trees started to fruit. This takes a bit longer than a vegetable garden but it is very rewarding when the trees fruit and you actually get to taste it.

3. Ride a bike or take a walk 
Many days when my kids get home from school and have a quick snack we take a walk or ride our bikes. After school is a great time to get into the habit of going outdoors before everyone gets settled in front of video games, television, or computers. We either walk or ride to the local park or to the bayou to look for tadpoles. My children love to hike and look for interesting leaves, rocks, plants, moss, and trees. My mom bought my son a small blunt axe so he could chop up the dead logs we found. He really thought he was all grown up using that axe. We’d bring home our finds and use them for craft projects later. I also found that doing craft projects outside makes it easier when it is time to clean up as well.

4. Play with your kids
Doing things as a family is the easiest way to get your children active and outdoors, when the kids see mom and dad getting out and having fun it makes it fun for them as well. If it becomes a lifestyle for the entire family then it usually becomes a lifestyle that sticks. We have a badminton net set up in the yard, and even though my daughter sometimes doesn’t want to play, she always has a great time after she gets going. I have found that even less active children can get excited about being active if the adult with them makes it fun. Just being out-of-doors in the sunshine is a step in the right direction.

5. Go Camping 
Going camping was a new adventure for me when my kids were young, I was a little hesitant, but I knew that my children would love it. We started out camping in the back yard. After that my kids wanted to go to a real camping park. There are so many state parks around the country so it is easy to find one not too far away. Most state parks have lakes for swimming and fishing and trails for hiking. Plus, they are safe for families. I remember the first park we went to in Texas. We were setting up camp and my son wanted to go see the lake so I let my daughter take him. Within a few minutes, they were back and my daughter had a panicked look on her face. She told me that there were alligators on the banks of the lake! We talked to the rangers and they assured us that if we did not mess with the alligators they would not mess with us. I was just glad we did not pick one of the campsites that were on the bank of the lake!

It was such an adventure for the kids to sleep in a tent. We saw so much wildlife that we would not have seen at home. We learned quickly that you cannot leave food outside or inside the tent. One night a bag of cookies got inside the tent and was up underneath a sleeping bag near the edge of the tent – but no one knew how, of course. All night long something was scratching at the tent, even after I ran outside and tried to scare it off. In the morning we had a tiny hole in the tent and found the cookies. The next night we made sure there was no food in the tent and we had a better night sleep!

The whole family benefits from getting into the habit of getting active outside. I have found that it really clears the mind and helps the attitude when we all get off of the technology and do something active.

Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments at rachelthomas.author@gmail.com.

The Kids of Ski Club 2013: Spring can now officially begin

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The Kids of Ski Club 2013: Spring can now official begin

What a great group of kids. They skied their hearts out for eight weeks and learned so much. Many thanks to the volunteers at Blackhawk Ski Club for the lessons and to Goodman Community Center for the kids, van and snack. I also want to thank those of you who donated funds to provide this program. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Spring can now officially begin.

Who says snow has to be white? Green and Purple Snow

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Make an ordinary snowman into something extraordinary with a little color.

Who says snow has to be white? With a little food coloring, you can turn a field of white into all the colors of the rainbow.

To make colored snow, fill spray bottles with water and add a few drops of food coloring. The kids will have fun marking their territory and creating all sorts of games.

To make snow ice cream, put about a half cup of apple sauce in a small bowl and fill with snow. Mix together and eat. Add some milk to make the mixture creamier or try different flavors. For the complete recipe and lots of variations, click here.

What are you doing to turn winter upside down?

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Adding snow to apple sauce makes a yummy snow treat. Add a bit of milk or cream to make the mixture creamy.

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Use food coloring to make rainbow ice cream using snow. It’s yummy and fun to make.

Bubble Mania at PBS Kids Get Up And Go! Day!

What do you get when you take 20 gallons of bubble juice and add hundreds of kids?

One huge bubble party!

Get Kids Outside was delighted to return for a second year to Wisconsin Public Television’s annual  PBS Kids Get up and Go Day on August 3. Kids heard a concert with Mr. Steve and got to meet many of their favorite PBS characters like Super Why and The Cat in the Hat.

They also got to make lots of bubbles courtesy of Get Kids Outside. Enjoy the photos and many thanks to the wonderful volunteers who made the day so enjoyable for the kids.

And remember, it’s not too late to book your summer bubble party. Just contact Diane today at getkidsoutside@gmail.com.

A very calm bubble maker.

I like this kid’s style. So calm and yet so effective.

This kid wins the tiniest person with the largest bubble award.

Bubble Maestro. What style and poise. Clearly, he’s done this before.

The bouncing bubble trick from The Maestro.

The next best thing to making bubbles is popping them.

Mr. Steve sings the Bubble Song with lots of bubbles in the air thanks to a bubble machine provided by Get Kids Outside.

Mom lends a hand. Be sure you don’t inhale. Yuck.

Bubble mania at its best.

Do you like my new hat? I do, I do, I like your new party hat!

Team effort.

I love the colors in this photo. Pink, blue and her golden red hair.

Do you have an event that could benefit from a lot of bubbles, then contact Get Kids Outside today at getkidsoutside@gmail.com. There’s plenty of summer left and plenty of bubbles to make.