Monday, June 19, 2023 will be the 158th anniversary of #Juneteenth—an annual recognition of the moment when 250,000 enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free on June 19, 1865 – 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. And now, in more than half of the US States, Juneteenth is an official public holiday.
We honor this day with celebrations but also reverent remembrances of what it represents, and we welcome everyone in our community who doesn’t yet know the history to learn more about why it’s an important holiday, an integral part of our country’s history, and a reminder for us to continue working towards equity for all.
We are also excited to follow the lead of Outdoor Afro – the nation’s leading, cutting-edge network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature – on an important initiative that engages all people in honoring Juneteenth.
Spend 2.5 Hours In Nature:
Once again, the Tinkergarten team will align with Outdoor Afro to observe Juneteenth. How? By spending 2.5 hours outside on June 19 in honor of the 2.5 years freedom was denied for 250,000 enslaved people in Texas and, with that context in mind, reflect on the question, "What does freedom mean to me?"
This year, Outdoor Afro also encourages us to pay extra attention to water—and how access to supplies of clean water impact freedom for all people.
To join in, on June 19th, visit a spot out in nature that features water—a swimming hole, pool, river, ocean, creek or any water source if you can. Share your experience of how you've spent 2.5 hours in nature by tagging @outdoorafro and @tinkergarten, and encourage others to do the same.
If you feel like your kiddos are too young to wrap their minds around all of the history, remember that they are learning by watching you observe Juneteenth as an important day. At the start, we shared with kids that it is an important day to remember how important freedom is for all people.
Outdoor Afro is an incredible, national organization and network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities. “Where Black people and nature meet,” Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation.
Connect with Outdoor Afro on social media @outdoorafro to see the network in action!
Why is this activity great for kids?
University of Pittsburgh historian Alaina Roberts explains that, "Juneteenth gave people freedom but it also gave them hope, something they had been longing for for a long time. Telling this particular story offers an opportunity for kids to know how important it was for people who had been treated so badly for so long to begin to experience a whole new way of life, to be truly free, and that’s always something to celebrate." If we want to learn from the past and forge a better future for out children, we grown ups need to remember and honor that change is ongoing and takes time and unending commitment, and that our history includes deeply woeful wrongs. Helping children come to understand as they grow will help them to make sure fewer such wrongs are part of their future.
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People use critical thinking skills to gather information, evaluate it, screen out distractions and think for themselves. These skills help us identify which knowledge to trust and how to use new and old knowledge together to decide what to believe or do. People also use these skills to develop arguments, make decisions, identify flaws in reasoning and to solve problems.
Also referred to as “higher-level thinking,” critical thinking draws on many other skills that matter (e.g. focus/self control, communication, making connections, and even empathy). Kids won’t fully develop critical thinking until adolescence or even adulthood, but remarkably there is lots that you can do to help your kids build its foundation during preschool and early school ages.
How do little kids build a base for such a complicated set of skills? A key building block to critical thinking is the ability to develop theories about the world and to adjust your theories as new information becomes available. Kids can practice this as they attempt to solve mysteries or actively wonder about why things are as they are. As a family, the more you ask questions, make predictions and allow kids to take active part in discovering the answers to their questions, the stronger you make their foundation for critical thinking. As kids grow out of the 3-to 5-year-olds' freewheeling relationship with reality, you can also train them to question information and see the inconsistencies or flaws in certain ways of thinking.
Why does it matter?
In a world that is increasingly saturated with media messages and where information comes from a wide range of sources that differ in quality, critical thinking is more important than ever. Kids need this skill in order to be informed and empowered consumers, to either suggest or evaluate new solutions to complicated problems, to make decisions about our society and its governance, and to form the beliefs that guide their personal and professional lives.
What is a Naturalist?
The oldest and simplest definition, “student of plants and animals,” dates back to 1600. The term has evolved over time, it's importance changing as the values of dominant culture have changed. 400 years after that old definition, Howard Gardner, the paradigm-shifting education theorist, added “naturalist” to his list of “multiple intelligences.” Gardner challenged the notion that intelligence is a single entity that results from a single capability. Instead, he recognizes eight types of intelligence, all of which enable individuals to think, solve problems or to create things of value. To Gardner, the Naturalist intelligence enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment.
A true naturalist has not simply Googled and learned the names of plants, animals, rocks, etc. Rather, he or she has had direct experience with them, coming to know about them and using all senses to develop this intelligence. A naturalist also has a reverence for nature, valuing and caring for living things from the smallest mite to the tallest tree. A naturalist comes to not only knowing the creatures and features of his or her environment, but treasuring them in thought and action.
Why does it matter?
In the process of becoming a naturalist, children become stewards of nature, a connection that is associated with a range of benefits, including greater emotional well-being, physical health and sensory development (not to mention the benefits to nature itself!). In a world in which primary experience of nature is being replaced by the limited, directed stimulation of electronic media, kids senses are being dulled and many believe their depth of both their interest in and capacity to understand complicated phenomena are being eroded. To contrast, the naturalist learns about the key features of their natural environment by using all of his senses and be interpreting open-ended and ever-changing stimuli.
What is an Active Lifestyle?
At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than our kids’ health. From our perspective, children cannot enjoy good health without an active lifestyle that incorporates regular, physical activity as well as time spent in nature. And, we can only influence how they use their time for a short part of their lives. If we really want to ensure their wellness for the long haul, we need to get our kids hooked on being active outdoors.
Two bits of good news: little kids naturally want to be physically active, and they love to be outdoors. So, the challenge we face is how to make active time outdoors a priority in our lives and how to teach our kids to do the same. Understandably, this is increasingly challenging in a culture that imposes so many schedules and structures around kids time. And it is all the more important when kids spend the majority of their waking hours indoors, staring at a screen, or living in communities in which the green spaces are fewer and more restricted than ever before.
Why does it matter?
Research in the past 25 years has confirmed a link between physical activity that takes place outdoors and positive health outcomes. Also, it has drawn an association between an indoor, sedentary lifestyle and negative health consequences. For young children, time to play, ramble and explore outdoors leads to the most extensive and lasting benefits—more than adult-led, structured outdoor activities like organized sports.
Perhaps the two most common issues in children’s health to which a lack of outdoor, physical activity contribute are childhood obesity and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]). Beyond the millions of overweight children, obesity rates have doubled for children (ages 6-11) and tripled for adolescents (ages 12-19) in just two decades. The number of children diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD continues to rise, and ADHD results in significant impairment to children socially and academically.
Studies have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. For example, 70% of teens who are obese grow up to be obese adults. On the flip side, if physical activities and time spent outdoors are a family priority, they will provide children and parents with a strong foundation for a lifetime of health.