28,000 Green Hours … and Counting!

green-hour_todd_christopher_175x263 It’s hard to believe, but National Wildlife Federation first launched Green Hour just over three years ago — more than 28,000 green hours and counting! Today, the Green Hour message is stronger than ever, residing at the heart of the growing Be Out There campaign to reconnect children with the natural world.

As one of the originators of NWF’s Green Hour, I’m happy to share some outdoor inspiration from my new book The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids (Trumpeter, March 2010). The book offers information, inspiration, resources and lots of ideas for family outdoor exploration that can be done almost anywhere.

If your family is at all like mine, you’ve got a bad case of spring fever and a yearning to be outside. Here are a few ideas that my family has put into practice recently:

What’s up, bud?

Watch the buds on several different kinds of trees or bushes in your backyard or a local green space. Keep an eye on the changes that take place each day over the next few weeks, sketching or photographing them, if you like. Which buds become leaves? Which become flowers? Which open quickly? Slowly?

Any way the wind blows

The breezy days of spring are great for flying kites — and much more. Race maple seeds in the wind, make a wind sock, or find the wind’s direction by making a hand-held weather vane from a pencil, push pin and drinking straw.

Hello, up there!
The trees nearby might be familiar — but how well do you really know them? For instance, how tall are they? Is it possible to determine their height from the ground? By measuring the shadows of trees and doing some basic geometry, you can!


A little night music…

A spring evening is a great time to be outside. Listen for the singing of frogs nearby — the song of spring peepers is a sure sign that spring has arrived. And for wiggly fun on soggy evenings after a spring rain, head out to the backyard or a local park to find and catch night crawlers. You can then make a wormarium!

Make tracks!

It’s a perfect time for a family hike, and the damp, muddy ground of springtime can add to the fun — it’s a great place to snoop around for and find animal tracks. If you’re up for more nature mysteries, try to find a local letterbox — or even make one of your own. And if you like your treasure hunts to be high-tech, track down a geocache with your portable GPS device.

Here’s wishing you and your family many happy green hours!

Todd Christopher is the author of The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids.