Pack your backpacks, canoes and kayaks folks, because more than 100 National Parks that usually charge an entrance fee will be free April 21-29, 2012 to celebrate National Park Week! What a great excuse to get the family out the door and exploring. Check out the National Parks website for a complete list of participating parks.
This video has been making the Facebook rounds, and a lot of folks are pretty impressed at the way this young girl talks herself out of a freak out and into her highest ski jump to date. I love the part at the end, when she immediately looks forward to the next big jump. This girl has class.
The other night I escaped our still-germy house and made it to our local showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. As always, I left feeling excited and energized about getting outside and trying something new. One of the short films we saw was a biopic by Sender Films about 9-year-old Ashima Shiraishi, a two-time American Bouldering Series junior national champion from New York City, and her coach Obe Carrion. Ashima is a gifted climber who astounds everyone who watches her. At one point in the film, Ashima travels to Heuco Tanks, Texas, a bouldering hotspot, and manages to climb a V11. The focus with which she tackles the problem stunned me and my fellow moviegoers. At just over four feet tall, she had to muster incredible creativity to think her way around problems that others managed to solve with a long reach or a dynamic move. This girl is powerful and inspiring. The clip above shows some of her most recent ABS competition.
Parental Advisory: In the first few seconds of this film there is a quick photo still of a young Obe flipping off the camera and the narration has a swear or two. If you want to show this video to your own young climber, just jump ahead to the 25 second mark.
The footage above is from an 2009, when Jaistemay Marquez, 17, became the youngest kayaker to run El Toro, a 25m waterfall in Mexico. For the most part, I think this falls into the category of, “Don’t try this at home, kids.” However, I intend to share this footage with my high school students because I think it is so important for them to know about teens who are out there performing at elite levels. Often it opens a discussion about what it takes to do a drop like El Toro without getting dead, or hike that tall mountain, or sail that boat solo around the world. I hear them say,”I could never do something like that.” To which I ask,”Why not?”
These kinds of extreme examples start conversations that sometimes end with the student coming back to me with a story about a kayaking lesson, or a trip to the local climbing gym. A few years ago, I took 26 11th graders on a camping trip; for many, it was their first time sleeping outside. At the end of the weekend, they were planning larger hikes and trips for the future. I hope one of them will climb Denali, or Everest someday, and think back to her first campout in a small clearing in the White Mountains. So I’ll rephrase my disclaimer to, “Don’t try THAT at home, but try something like it. Take a first step, kids.”
You may have heard of Jordon Romero-he’s the (then) 13 year old boy who summited Everest last May. He has a goal of summiting the highest mountains on each continent. So far, he’s racked up an impressive list of ascents in addition to Everest: Kilimanjaro at age 9, Elbrus and Aconcagua at 10, and Denali at 11. Now only one summit remains: Vinson Massif on Antarctica. He has faced criticism, most of which revolves around the idea that he is too young to attempt climbs at such altitudes, mainly because there is little research about the effects exposure to extreme altitudes has on children. I initially disapproved of it because I wondered if he was being pushed too hard by his parents, and was possibly in danger of being exploited by them. However, looking at his enthusiasm, it seems that he has grown to want this achievement very badly, and is the one pushing for the adventure to continue. I wish him luck.
When we were looking for daycare for the Kiddo for when I go back to work in a month or so, one thing we tried to find was a center that had access to a great outdoor play area. Unfortunately, it seems that trees and walks in the woods aren’t really a key focus of daycare design. I have yet to find a center that has a playground with trees in it, let alone access to a garden. Most were clustered in shopping districts and business trade centers, surrounded by metal and cement, and with play yards carpeted with rubberized “safety” mulch. I know he will spend most of his days inside, and it breaks my heart to think of him tucked away in a stuffy room with a line of cribs and bouncers rather than taking walks outside in the fresh air and looking at the trees he loves so much. We’ll have to work overtime to make sure we get him outside in the evenings and weekends as much as possible.
I came across this video highlighting an outdoors-only preschool, and wish we had something like this in our area. Heck. I wish I had something like this when I was a kid. Cedarsong Nature School is located on Vashon Island, just off of Seattle Washington. The kids are outdoors all day, every day. They have a circle of stumps that serve as a meeting place, and create shelters out of tarps when it rains. Basically, they learn to play in the rain as well as the sun, and become intimately acquainted with the forest around them. The teachers help the kids learn to sharpen their observation skills and pay attention to the changes the ecosystem goes through over the course of the year. They play games, do art projects, tell stories, all the same things a kid does in a “regular” preschool. Except they have “handwarmer” baked potato snacks when it is cold outside. They also have a pretty long waitlist, which tells me that we need more programs like this in our country. Less rubberized safety mulch, more potato handwarmers.
I met Jane Goodall once. I was an eager student of anthropology and had been devouring every book on primates and paleoanthropology I could find, including all of Goodall’s work. Miraculously, she came to speak at my college, and I planned to skip out of my favorite class to hear her presentation. In the week leading up to her appearance, I busily wrote out all the questions I wanted to ask her, just in case there was a chance to talk one on one. I tried to come up with complex questions, not ones that just anyone off the street would ask, oh no; these would be questions that showed I not only read her books but could offer deep insight into her findings. I was certain it would lead to a lively and stimulating exchange of ideas, and that this would be one of the better networking moments of my anthropological career.
When the presentation ended, I hurried to the back of the auditorium to line up for her book signing. Along with every other person there. The line wrapped around the room, and it became clear to me that I was going to have about 30 seconds to impress Dr. Goodall. I was doomed. My hands got clammy and started to shake. As my turn approached, all rational thought deserted my brain. I reached out with my sticky hand, and barely managed to choke out a strangled, “I liked your book,” before receiving a cursory thank you and being guided away by the handlers. I had choked.
All of this has little to do with today’s post except to emphasize my long-standing science crush on Jane Goodall.
In 1967, Jane Goodall brought her months-old son into the field with her at Gombe in Tanzania. Her careful observation of the reserve’s chimpanzees had shown her that they hunted, and often killed the young of other primates in the area, and she was concerned about the safety of her young son. In order to protect him from both the chimps and the many other wild animals in the area, she built him a cage. Both she and her son slept in it at night, and though it was painted a cheery blue and decorated with birds and stars, she received heavy criticism from a number of people about her child rearing methods. But she always maintained that “Grub”, as she nicknamed him, had led an extraordinary childhood. She took her parenting cues from the chimpanzees she studied, and noticed that, “chimp mothers… that were affectionate and tolerant raised babies that had good adult relationships and were successful community members”(Quote from Jane Goodall by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan). She took six years away from direct fieldwork to raise him, and he accompanied her in her research travels around the countryside.
Grub grew up running around the forests and plains of Africa, and in the process learned firsthand the value of the wild creatures surrounding him even when they were a direct danger to his family. Goodall has since formed the Jane Goodall Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting humanitarian, environmental and animal protection efforts around the globe. As part of the institute’s efforts to reach out to youth, Goodall formed a program to help children become actively involved in influencing the world around them. Roots and Shoots encourages youth-led campaigns to effect positive change in the three focus areas of the institute, and helps kids identify how they can make a difference. Anyone can form a Roots and Shoots group, and there are thousands of children now working on service projects related to the program. For folks looking to not only get their kids out into the woods but also teach them to preserve those things they love, this program seems like a great way to get started. You can search for local groups, or learn how to start your own here.
So, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus due to the birth of our baby boy, Liam, who arrived in early July. It’s been a crazy 5 weeks, but we are now settling into a routine that, happily, includes more writing time for Mom. We’ve been on a few adventures already, including some short hikes and trips to the beach. The Kid is pretty mellow as long as he has access to milk whenever and wherever he feels like it, and he has been falling asleep in his carrier on most of our little treks. Next weekend, we are heading out on our first camping trip as a family, and I’ll post about how we are preparing for this next big step.
In the meantime, I came across this reminder of how much we take for granted in the west. The Nepalese kids in this video travel for hours each day in order to go to school, and in the process must cross a dangerous river on a shoddy zipline. I have such respect and awe for the strength of their desire to learn and improve their own lives.
Justine Curvengen has developed a number of great paddling films over the last few years, and has become well known for her series This is the Sea, a thrilling collection of sea kayaking adventure films. She recently expanded her paddling portfolio to canoes with This is Canoeing, and I bought this collection for Sean for his birthday last year. We were excited to find that one of the short films followed Canoeroots Publisher Scott MacGregor and his young son Dougie on a four day trip down the Petawawa River in Eastern Ontario, Canada. Dougie is excited to be on the water, and clearly loves paddling alongside his dad, except, perhaps when his little stuffed animal gets wet during a tricky rapid descent. Scott talks about some of the modifications he has made to his paddling style in order to bring Dougie along on these adventures, and the enthusiasm of both father and son is infectious. This film definitely got us thinking about the possibilities, and gave us some great ideas for keeping kids excitement levels high during uncomfortable conditions.
Check out the whole film collection by clicking on the picture below.