Monday, September 13, 2010

Ascending Chicago's Highest PEAK

From REI_Chicago
We held a training workshop for the PEAK Program at the Lincoln Park REI store in Chicago on Thursday. The audience consisted of folks from community-based youth programs such as Big City Mountaineering, Lake View Nature Center, Chicago Park District, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and Mindful Metropolis Magazine, as well as the Outreach Coordinators and others involved in PEAK activities for the Chicago area’s four REI stores. Peggy’s sister and two of her cousins, whose curiosity about what we’ve been doing on this e-Tour for the past ten weeks compelled them to attend the session for a firsthand encounter with our teaching of Leave No Trace principles, rounded out the audience. We engaged this group in PEAK Pack activities such as Minimum Impact Match, a great icebreaker and an up-close-and-personal way to get everyone thinking about creatively teaching the seven principles of outdoor ethics.

The REI venue was an excellent urban setting for the workshop, and it’s clear that REI is fully vested not only in encouraging the practice of Leave No Trace Principles, but also in providing teaching resources and support that will help others, especially youth audiences, understand the importance of the principles as a framework for fun, responsible outdoor recreational activity. Just getting kids interested in outdoor recreation is, of course, the first essential step and a complementary objective of REI and Leave No Trace. We share the concern of Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” that the disconnect between kids and the outdoors, whether backyard or backcountry, is a fundamental challenge to the healthy development of human character and values. Critically, this disconnect also threatens the continuum of advocacy and stewardship for the wild lands, creatures, and historic places of the public realm. If our society, or at least the part of our society that professes to love the outdoors and what it means and serves, doesn’t make a deliberate effort to connect today’s youth with this natural and cultural legacy, we fail to meet our own stewardship responsibilities.

We’ve witnessed the degree of the problem first-hand in our travels. Even in campgrounds, we’ve seen how easy access to electronic games, the Internet, and high definition television or video so effectively infatuates and distracts the human mind (whether child or adult), and precludes other, more physical, traditional outdoor recreational activities that have timelessly helped kids connect with, understand, and appreciate the natural and cultural roots of their environment. Sometimes we need to intentionally model the behaviors that can show others how to enjoy the outdoors in the right kind of way. Moreover, we need to find compelling ways of appealing to young minds, piquing their naturally curious inclinations, reacquainting young spirits with the gratification found in simple, traditional pastimes, and whetting young appetites with the enticement of authentic experiences in the outdoors.

From REI_Chicago
The folks who participated in our program clearly recognize the danger of “the disconnect,” and REI's partnership with Leave No Trace and sponsorship of the PEAK Training Program is only one of the ways that REI is responding to the challenge. Maybe you would be willing and able to join the effort, too. Check out the efforts of REI and other sponsors for community action opportunities that actively promote sustainable outdoor ethics, and see if there is a local program or initiative that appeals to your interest. And when you do get involved, maybe you can entice a kid to go along with you.

Hoping to work alongside you on such challenges when we meet down the road,

Peggy and Barrett
e-Tour 2010

e-Word: “enticing”

ps: Many thanks to Claire Hurwitz, Outreach Specialist for the Greater Chicago Area REI stores, for arranging the PEAK workshop and recruiting such great participants...

No comments: