Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - May 2014

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Page 28 of 49 n Hudson Valley Parent 27 kids are very heavily scheduled. Every second of their day is orches- trated, so they don't develop the capacity to be with themselves and build their imagination." Structured time Over-reliance on structured time and constant wireless communi- cation is something that concerns David Brownstein, co-founder and Executive Director of Wild Earth, a summer camp and wilderness program operating in the woods of Ulster County's Shawangunk Ridge. The core Wild Earth program started 11 years ago with a small group of Hudson Valley parents seeking purer, minimally structured summer camp for their kids. "In the past," explains Brown- stein, "There was a lot more time to just explore on our own, as kids, to create our own fun. Today we see the world as a lot more structured, and with a lot more distractions." Foremost among these distrac- tions are cell phones and the Inter- net, which is why Wild Earth partici- pants are required to hand over their devices before they go into the trees. "We try to create an environment where kids can be outside exploring in the woods, fields and streams, and follow their natural curiosities and natural interests. It's a very natural kind of learning called observation." The idea is to unplug from the modern world and reconnect with world of nature, and Brownstein be- lieves that the benefits are profound. "The biggest thing kids get from our programs is a stronger sense of who they are." But even within a philosophy that promotes unstructured exploration, there is the need to meet the needs and expectations of today's families, and so Wild Earth has evolved and changed with the times, even as it attempts to offer a counterbalance to modernity. "We're doing much more inten- tional programming now," explains Brownstein. Indeed, Wild Earth's website now includes information on dozens of programs for kids, families and even adults. Among these newer offerings in- clude "True North," a rite-of-passage program described as "Safe, con- tained risk-taking" for adolescents, which culminates in a 24-hour solo experience in the woods. Outdoor play Another local institution that of- fers today's over-scheduled families a chance to rediscover nature is the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall. The museum, which has an indoor center with education- al displays, interactive exhibits, and live animals, has been around since 1959, but has recently expanded its focus to meet the needs of kids and families seeking more time in the The Mid-Hudson Children's Museum now caters mostly to toddlers and pre-schoolers, offering a structured play space for them to explore and experience the world safely. The new lingo: What we said in 1994 versus what we say in 2014: Then: Why don't you walk over to Claire's house for awhile? Now: I'll call Claire's mom and set up a playdate for you. Then: Go outside and ride your bike. Now: Which should we sign up for this fall? The freestyle dance club, or the clay sculpture work- shop? Then: No television until your grades get better. Now: Your grades are falling. I'll set up a meeting with your teacher, tutor, and principal. Then: Max got his first tooth today! Now: Max got the last slot in the good preschool today! Then: Stop fighting or I'll turn this car around and drive straight home! Now: Can mommy have her iPhone back for a second? I need to check the GPS. Then: My daughter has a pen pal in Sweden! They write letters back and forth every month. Now: My daughter made a You- Tube video that went viral on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook! (Continued on Page 28)

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