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Seeds Go Wild with GECKO gets kids unplugged and outside

By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The SUN

We all have those memories from childhood — jumping into a cool lake on a hot summer day, intently watching ants on the march or spending hours just laying back and looking at clouds. And whether we realized it or not, those moments in the outdoors helped shaped our views on the world around us.

Those kinds of memories are fading fast for many young people today. The statistics are alarming: according to the Children and Nature Network, in a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.  The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that kids 8 to 18 spend an overwhelming 53 hours a week using entertainment media.

Both Seeds of Learning and GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) believe in establishing play outdoors early, and came up with a concept to join forces for a day to get our little Seeds kids off the couch, unplugged and outside.

In its second year and sure to be a recurring event on the events calendar, Seeds Go Wild with GECKO was held on Friday, July 25, with 31 3- to 5-year-olds, Seeds teachers and a handful of parents.

Stewart Bellina, GECKO recruiter and Seeds parent, was the key conduit between the two organizations this year and her theme for the event was, “Join us for a day of learning about the fun we can have in our own parks.”

This year’s excursion was to Yamaguchi Park, a convenient walk from the Seeds school, proving that you don’t have to go to remote wilderness to plan a unique and educational day outdoors.

Students came armed with their own fishing rods that they made the day before from paint sticks, string and magnets. They practiced fishing near the river with magnetic fish. Then there was a scavenger hunt, looking for items in nature that were brown, slimy, scratchy, smooth and different shapes.

There was a lesson in putting up three different tents and playing inside them, as well as building a fort with logs and sticks by the river. Everyone collected rocks and stones and then held a cairn-building contest.

This was followed by “Outdoor Simon Says,” including “be a bear, be a tree, be a river.”

After all this outdoor fun, the kids were ravenous and GECKO provided a picnic lunch under the Yamaguchi pavilion before heading off for free time play in the playground in the park.

Weary, happy kiddos then headed back to Seeds of Learning for a well-deserved nap.

This story was posted on July 31, 2014.