Nature Rocks: Reconnecting Families With Nature

nature-rocksJune 5, 2009 It’s World Environment Day...where you can Twitter for Trees, and ‘green your routine’ and engage in all kinds of green media pursuits and still miss the meaning of getting kids OUTSIDE…

As one of my heroes, Last Child in the Woods author Richard Louv said, “We have an entire generation of ecokids that can “click for a cause” but still not know what poison ivy looks like out on a trail.” Enter Nature Rocks…Part social media connection, part resource site for blogs like Cool Green Science to seed playing in nature, the aim of Nature Rocks is to ‘get ’em outside’ using media as the conduit for behavioral change.

Nature Rocks is exactly the use of online to offline bridging into nature that I was chatting up at this week’s Ypulse conference to shift from screen time to outdoor exploration without it being an ‘either/or’ proposition.

ecoamericaLaunched by ecoAmerica and landing in my email via Live Earth, it is exactly the use of social media and marketing that has a hybrid entrepreneurial model for sustainability, blending  partnerships (The Nature Conservancy, the Flora Family Foundation, and American Camp Association) with sponsorship (REI) to deliver a positive message ensuring we don’t end up with Media Savvy Kids with “nature deficit disorder.”

Founded by cyclebreaker Richard Louv’s Children & Nature Network, this hybrid monetization is the funding direction Shaping Youth will ultimately go as a nonprofit to continue to deliver our programs and resources while partnering with others interested in using media to make a difference in a scalable, impactful manner.

ypulse2009As I started writing up my Ypulse 2009 impressions, I must say one of the encouraging ‘take aways’ for me was the fact that there ARE parents in the industry vehemently concerned about the quality and messaging being served to their kids and are looking for ‘better choices’ like a heat seeking missile…

I met some colleagues that I’d only ‘friended on Facebook’ previously like Allison Ellis at ‘Targeting Kids’ who turns out to be ‘on the same page’ as I am despite the name of her blog…and is doing some energizing things with positive media like Look, Listen and Learn, commercial free TV in Seattle for starters…Then there were some heavy duty ‘immersive’ brand specialists like Premise doing a demo of their campaigns with Partnership for a Drug Free America and evidently they’re also helping  Conservation International boost exposure to Tales 4 Tomorrow, where children choose which cause to support…

tales4tmrw

However, I tend to agree with the mixed messaging conveyed by ‘buying stuff’ and going green as this article by the CCFC crew pointed out:   ‘Marketing Earth Day & other ‘stuff’ to kids” as it seems to be a ‘disconnect’ to be seeding green via plush toy purchase/codes in Webkinz style…

It simply doesn’t break the cycle of  consumption, a la The Story of Stuff.

Mind you, if you were going to buy a toy ANYway, and channeling the purchase power to a worthy org to simultaneously seed philanthropy then bravo, but overall I guess I prefer the EchoAge model of ‘seeding philanthropy’ via mindful REDUCTION if I had my say.

I’ll be sharing more Ypulse notes soon, but again, I found some VERY unlikely industry allies and validating encouragement which could fast forward some of our current Shaping Youth missions if we band together in collaborative thinking.

Just look at Allison Ellis’ post on Scholastic’s dumbing down into merchandising mode…This is a MARKETING woman that had Scholastic as a CLIENT! You don’t get much more ‘authentic’ than that on the ‘shape up Scholastic’ backlash…(score one for industry parents paying attention at a macro and micro level, woohoo!)

This was ALSO self-evident last night in a Consuming Kids chat with a first generation parent from India…

He happens to be a GAME DESIGNER and engineer as well, so it’s not as if he’s media-phobic by any means…

He kept reinforcing the notion that ‘screen time’ and ‘consumption’ is NOT the core competency he wants his kids raised with.

He’s trying to filter through the media maelstrom so his kids don’t grow up with vapid values in the peer to peer influence network of public schools and media exposure here in the U.S.!

cheshirecatI grinned like a Cheshire cat realizing this man is the epitomy of our mission at Shaping Youth, for he represents the recognition that media, marketing and  technology can be used as a ‘solution’ to rewind part of the ‘problem’ if we all band together and raise the quality to the top tier letting the muck sink to the bottom of the influence sea…

Not only deconstructing and counter-marketing what’s served up to kids instilling critical thinking skills, but taking action to champion change from WITHIN the industry to raise the bar and shift the mindshare toward productive pursuits.

Never before have I felt such a parental backlash brewing over the content of ‘damaging drek’ and desire for ‘positive picks’…

And never before have I felt more encouraged that Shaping Youth’s ‘from the inside out’ movement has been given a collective nod to continue ‘finding the good’ and merging media underdogs into more powerful players to go up against the big dogs as content providers.

Time for ‘open source’ resource sharing and portal play, gang…

nature-conservancyCan’t wait to pursue our next Shaping Youth strategic session with our nonprofit advisory board, as it’s finally coming together to reach ‘critical mass’ when industry gets into the conversation! Like Nature Rocks and other No Child Left INSIDE environmental eco-literacy the unlimited educational bridges to experience the REAL world using media and marketing for ‘coolhunting’ (whether it’s geocaching, urban gardening, wildlife online to offline aid etc.) leave no doubt in my mind that we can shift the ‘green’ from ‘clicks and concepts’ to ‘cleats and climbing’ to get out and PLAY in the great outdoors.

As many of us edge toward low key summer ‘staycations,’ friends at EcoChilds Play, Healthy Child Healthy World, and blogs like Unplug Your Kids will be a vital resource for eco-adventures and activity ideas to just ‘chill out’ and as the NYTimes article says, “Let the Kids Be…”

But for those who “let their kids be” only to see them “tethered” to the latest media device or marketing influence, national campaigns like Nature Rocks may be just the extra summer nudge they need to refresh, reconnect, and recycle their energy toward each other.

Related Resources

Young Eco-Heroes: Want to be a Conservationist When You Grow Up?

About World Environment Day (U.N. Gen. Assembly ’72)

Habitat Heroes: Newly Launched Social Networking Site for EcoKids

Greenwashing: Sustainable Brands vs. Branding Bandwagons

About Nature Rocks!

A Few Related Shaping Youth Eco-Articles Rich in Resources/Links

Shaping Youth: Get ‘Em Outside!

Shaping Youth Joins Eco-Literacy Coalition: NCLI

What’s A Kids Party Without Piles of Presents? EchoAge

If Kids Could Be Dolphins: The Power of Creative Play

How To Turn People Green

Planting Earthseeds Via The Magic School Bus

The Great Turtle Race

Inspire Kids With Green Media: Kid-Vid & Games Galore

New Media Worldometers Help Data Click With Kids

Media Savvy Kids and Nature Deficit Disorder

The Nature of Tweens: Wired Worlds & Outdoor Ed

Shaping Youth Through Nature, Media Unplugged

Kids Plant Virtual Trees to Benefit REAL Trees in Dizzywood

Get Kids to Eat Green: Using Shrek Against His Drek

Seeding Virtual Worlds: Kids Going Green in Dizzywood

Nim’s Island: Shaping Youth Through Imagination & Adventure

When Green Gets Jaded: Marketing Hope to Kids

S.F. Oil Spill Prompts Altruism & Activism in Kids

Can Somethin’ Be Done About All This Consumption?

Elf Island: A Virtual World To Be Wild About

Elf  Island GoodQuest to Help Polar Bears

In Bed with Branding: Elf Island Pairs with Children’s Hospital

Therapeutic Impacts of Virtual Worlds

Elf Island Unlocks the Secret to Parent Approval

Rerunning this NCLI clip again for summer fun thoughts!

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