What Do Robots, Sir David Attenborough and Kids have in Common?
All three have caught the attention of The Children & Nature Network (C&NN;), who supports those working to reconnect children with nature. Recently it had a link to the above video of a commercial TV advert produced by Persil, a British laundry detergent brand. (Kids playing outdoors sure know how to get dirty - hence the connection.)
The advert cleverly addresses some of the issues we've been covering regarding the No Child Left Inside (aka Nature Deficit Disorder) movement. It shows what happens when a robot is exposed to the great outdoors. Persil were concurrently sponsoring a UK event called Playday, which has heaps of resources for getting kids out amongst the leaves, worms and mud.
BBC Kids and WildLife Survey
C&NN; also reference a recent study carried out by the BBC's Wildlife Magazine. Only half of the 700 kids surveyed could identify a bluebell, while less than 15% knew what a goldfinch was. Using computers was considered twice as popular, with the nine to eleven year olds, as playing outdoors.
Fergus Collins, Features Editor of the magazine reckons "Allowing kids to play in wild places, discover wildlife, and even build dens, enables them to develop an essential connection with the natural world." Whilst renown wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough believes that "Nobody is going to protect the natural world unless they understand it."
I could not agree more. I worked for years as a camps instructor. I remember having wayward kids from broken homes angrily throwing cutlery at each other during meal times, but get them spending just a few days in the bush, and instead they'd soon fighting each other to save a cute little native mushrooms from being accidentally stood on.
Image: Warren McLaren collection
In my own childhood we didn't have a television until I was about eleven, however my mum used to say the best way she knew to entertain me as a little one, was to find me a line of ants to watch. Seemingly I'd sit still, entranced for ages.
Yet she must have worried sick when I'd ride my bicycle away into the countryside early in the morning—off catching tadpoles, climbing trees, scrambling up sand dunes, boulder jumping by the ocean, lighting fires and brewing billy tea—only reappearing just in time for supper. But still, she let me do it. The result: I've spent the past 25 years or so solely focussed on helping folk develop an enjoyment and stewardship of the natural environment. I cannot thank my parents enough for the joys my early exposure to nature has brought me.
The BBC Magazine piece reflects this when it quotes Really Wild Show presenter, Nick Baker, who believes that parents play a vital role in reconnecting children with the wild world: "If the parents get it, the kids get it."
For as Dr Martin Maudsley, of Playwork Partnerships observes, "Something magical occurs when children and wild spaces mix." The robot in that advert knows this too.