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Tracy F.
Cynthia W.

Weekly Healthy Living Series (Week 13) - Featuring Bloomers! Island

Tracy F. 6 years ago

About The Series:  Welcome back to our weekly healthy living series. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified each week when the post is up.

This Week's Guest Expert:  We are excited to have Cynthia Wylie, Founder of Bloomers! Island to talk with us about the importance of getting your kids outdoors. 

About Bloomers!: The Bloomers! mission is to encourage the healthiest planet and healthiest people possible by teaching children (and getting them excited) about nature and gardening.  They strive to get kids excited to go outside and get they're hands dirty.  Look for their upcoming product launch Bloomers! Backyard which makes gardening at home with your child fun and easy.  To learn more visit: http://bloomersisland.com 

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W. 6 years ago

     Connecting Nature + Technology

“It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become." 
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Not only is nature beautiful, but also in ways more far-reaching than we ever realized, it is vital for our kids. Richard Louv, founder of Children & Nature Network succinctly sums up a truth, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.

Increasingly, our children are missing out on the benefits of outdoor play including vitamin D intake, exercise and the prevention of asthma, obesity, type II diabetes, ADD, and ADHD.  The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that outdoor play is essential for getting children active. In the last 30 years childhood obesity has more then tripled, and many are already aware of this increasing problem. But, did you know that nature buffers the impact of life stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity? Furthermore, play in a diverse natural environment can reduce or eliminate bullying. 

Or have you heard that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae (MV) that can increase levels of serotonin in our brains, helping us relax, soothe and calm? MV can also increase intelligence, improve cognitive functions, and boost one’s immune system.

Gardening is a form of interaction with nature that gives children a sense of accomplishment, improved self-esteem and a sense of ownership. Through gardening children develop skills in teamwork, cooperation, small motor functions, literacy and math.  As an added bonus, through gardening, children are more willing to eat what they’ve grown, even if it’s a vegetable. 

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” 
~ Alan Kay, computer visionary

“The average American boy or girl spends just 4-7 minutes in outdoor unstructured play each day, and more then 7 hours each day in front of an electronic screen”  “Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out, because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: A connection to the natural world.” 

So, what can we do to address this disconnect between nature and technology; Fight technology, force outdoor play?  A report from Sesame Workshop claims that up to 80% of children under five use the Internet on at least a weekly basis in the United States.  The reason for this is simple: everyone uses technology. It is our future and here to stay. Rules and restriction aren’t going to prevent our children from being exposed to it, so instead why don’t we use technology to encourage outdoor play?  Nature and technology don’t have to contradict one another. In fact, technology can compliment and supplement the study of nature. 

The following is a description of how our company, Bloomers! Edutainment, is creatively using technology to connect the online and natural world. 

Many educators and parents were interviewed when developing Bloomers! Schoolyard, Bloomers! Backyard and the virtual world of Bloomers! Island. From the beginning it was essential that those two groups be an integral part of the development, because the target audience for Bloomers! is so young. The general feedback was: “we don’t want another video game, we want our kids to go outside more.” Richard Cohen, former National Director of Head Start and one of Bloomers! early advisors said, “I want kids to go out and get their hands dirty, and that has since become the company’s motto. The strategy for Bloomers! developed into one aimed at connecting the online world to the offline world at every point and the following shows just how this goal is achieved.

1. The Bloomers! Schoolyard program provides a sponsored, hands-on gardening and healthy eating program for early learners with the same characters that live online at Bloomers! Island.
2. Bloomers! Island found online at BloomersIsland.com, reinforces the gardening lessons learned at school.  Along with the program each child receives a 6-month subscription.
3. Bloomers! Backyard products include items designed to get kids outside such as gardens, seeds, gardening aprons, gardening books, and patches that rewards kids for learning a gardening lessons.
4. Bloomers! GPS check-in app locates every arboretum and botanical garden in the U.S. When used, a child receives 500 points on BloomersIsland.com. 
5. Students can document their garden with a digital camera and paste the photographs in a gardening journal or a bulletin board at school and even email photographs of their garden, vegetables they’ve grown or explorations in nature and have them uploaded to the Community Garden blog on BloomersIsland.com. 
6. Bloomers! Schoolyard teachers can use Bloomers! Island to meet students in the Very Very Veggie Garden and ask them to identify the different vegetables they see. 
7. Teachers can ask students to explore the online Enchanted Orchard and then schedule a field trip to a real orchard and compare the two. 

The Bloomers! team shares this list on how they are connecting technology to gardening and nature in the hope that it inspires educators to get creative and apply some of these ideas to other nature sites. A plethora of great apps and reference sites exist, many for free that help identify plants and animals, hiking trails, and national parks.  Let’s all go out and get our hands dirty!