10.Improves Vision – studies have shown that participating in outdoor activities can improve vision distance and reduce the chance of nearsightedness. Considering that children spend around 7 hours in front of a screen per day, this is no surprise.
9. Increases Attention Span – Believe it or not, spending more time in the outdoors and participating in unstructured play can reduce the chance of ADHD.
8. Reduces stress – Nature provides a sense of peace and calm. There is no rushed or hurried feeling that can often come with the everyday stresses of regular life.
7. Teaches Responsibility – Having a child in direct contact with plants teaches them how to care for living things. Picking flowers or watching vegetable plants grow gives a child a sense of responsibility for another life form.
6. Promotes Problem Solving Skills – Play outside usually involves creative and critical thinking in order to come up with games or solutions to natural curiosities.
5. Actives the Senses – More than watching TV or playing a video game, that is. Think about which senses are stimulated when you are standing in the middle of a forest… enough said.
4. Builds Confidence – Kids can run, scream, climb trees, get dirty. The sky is the limit. Outdoor, unstructured play not only gives youth the freedom to be themselves, but also allows for decision making and confidence building.
3. Keeps Them Healthy – An obvious increase in physical activity and increased exposure to Vitamin D can reduce the chances of obesity, heart disease, future bone problems, and diabetes.
2. Stimulates Imagination – Unstructured free time in the outdoors allows for free thinking. A general curiosity for life emerges and “play” becomes anything you want it to be.
1. Promotes Social Skills – Is anyone tired of the younger generation hiding behind text messages, instagram, snapchat, etc. The art of social skills is quickly dwindling, getting outside forces youth to interactive without electronics as a barrier.
*The order of this list is purely my opinion.
Recommended Read: Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder By Richard Louv
5 Health benefits of playing outside
Get Kids Outside
Why Children Need to Play Outside
Why kids need to spend time in nature.
Early Childhood News
When was the last time you volunteered your time to help a worthy cause? For me, I go in spurts. I’ve had some major volunteer experiences, like with International Student Volunteers; some long term stints, like with Grand Rapids Public Schools as a middle school assistant soccer coach; and also one day events, like planting Peter (aka a tree) at Pleasant Park with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. Though, to be honest, I have probably had more experience managing volunteers and volunteer events, than actually volunteering myself (that was a mouthful!). Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that volunteering makes everyone involved feel just a little bit better about life in general. Whatever your passion is, whatever makes your inner core light up, the mission has to resonate with you in order to make volunteering worthwhile.
How can you volunteer?
My advice… Do Your Research!!!
When you donate your time, you want it to have an impact, to be valued, and well spent. After all, you are a genius that has so much to give back to the world, right? Ask around. Does this organization treat volunteers well? Do volunteers feel well utilized at events? Does this organization have good ethics and moral standing? For more research, check out the following websites:
Great Nonprofits – A nonprofit itself, formed to get the inside scoop on organizations from first hand testimonies.
Guide Star – Get the low down on an organization's financials, programs, success rates, and more.
The nonprofit sector is a funny world when you consider the following:
I’m sure there is much more you could add to this list. It seems that nonprofit organizations are often caught between a rock and a hard place, especially when it comes to money. The general consensus seems to be that nonprofits don’t make money, and that employees of nonprofits don’t make money (yes, there are actual people in my life who have said this to me). Well, news flash – I have almost exclusively worked for nonprofits for about 10 years and somewhere in there I managed a backpacking trip around Europe and a move to Colorado. It is possible for a nonprofit to make a decent profit. And in fact, if they are making a decent profit, it most likely means they are doing something right and that their mission can be reached on an even larger scale.
Now, when it comes to money, there are restrictions that should be followed, such as a certain percentage of revenue must go directly back into the mission, or a certain percentage of revenue can be put toward salaries. This, however, leads me to a HUGE restriction that often comes up with funding in the nonprofit world – when people (or organizations) give their money, they may give it with the restriction that it goes directly toward the program. Not to salaries. Not to administrative costs. Not to anything to do with overhead. I always wonder, when people make this restriction, do they realize that it takes staff (who are paid) to run the programs that you want your money to go to. It takes administrative costs (printing, marketing, phone calls, community outreach) to recruit participants to said program. Now, one could make a case for these administrative costs, but in general money labeled as restricted is meant to go toward participation fees, materials used during the program by participants, etc. The reality is, there is so much more that goes into a program at a nonprofit organization then just showing up the day of. I wonder how much more successful NPOs would be if more funding were labeled as “unrestricted.”
Some other food for thought is in the article “We Need to Stop Treating Nonprofits the Way we Treat Poor People”. This article provides a different perspective on the way people perceive nonprofits. It’s an underlying belief that I’m not quite sure how it came into existence in the first place. And if nothing else, try out this excerpt from the article:
“The punishment of success. Ironically, while we expect poor people to work and save up money so they can stop being dependent, we punish them when they succeed at that, removing their benefits if they earn close to an amount where they may actually be able to no longer need the benefits. It’s weirdly paradoxical, demotivating, and insulting. In nonprofits, many funders expect sustainability and yet punish nonprofits for having a strong reserve, which is probably the most important factor for sustainability. You need to be sustainable, but if you are too successful at that, we’re not funding you, or we take away the money we gave you. I remember frantically trying to spend some left-over money because it otherwise would have had to be returned, per the requirement of this funder, even though the reason we had leftover was because we were spending it wisely; that money we saved would have greatly helped our programs if we had been allowed to put it into reserve.”
An interesting thing happened to be the other day… a friend, who has been completely supportive of me starting a grant writing business, finally asked the question, “so, what is a grant anyways?” For starters, I am glad I have people in my life who are willing to support me regardless if they fully understand what I am doing. Secondly, I had to kind of laugh at my response, “It’s ummm, well essentially it’s a way for organizations to get money… ummm... it’s like an application, but it can be really tedious to complete, and there is a lot of competition. But umm… well let me give you an example…” Now, let me make it VERY clear: I know what a grant is, I wouldn’t be going into this business if I didn’t; but this was a small reminder that when we involve ourselves so much in a subject area, we can forget that there are people out there who have no concept of said subject. I suppose it’s a bit humbling to have to go back to the basics and explain what I perceive to be a simple concept to someone who has no knowledge or previous experience in this topic. I mean, hey, the reverse would be true if a biochemical engineer mentioned any sort of fancy science related term as if it were part of my everyday repertoire. So, let’s dive in – what is a grant?
We all know that the word grant means ‘to give’ as in “I grant you this wish.” In this case, it’s not too far off. It is, in essence, giving someone a gift.
“A grant is a monetary award given by a government agency, foundation, corporation, or other entity to another body in order to plan, implement, or operate a particular program or fund a particular project.” – Alexis Carter-Black, Getting Grants
The easiest example of a grant is financial aid for college students (FAFSA anybody??). Essentially, the person receiving the money has proven a genuine need for this money AND can prove how they will use the money to benefit the giver’s mission (in this case, more students in higher education). Grant money is not paid back (it is not a loan), but often times reporting during the time period of which the money is used is required (after all, we don’t want you running away with the money and going on a luxury vacation when you are supposed to be attending university!).
In my case, I aim to work specifically with nonprofit organizations that are seeking funding for youth or environmental/outdoors related programs. Say, for example, a school wants to install a community garden so that students can experience first hand what it is like to grow their own food, learn how to cook healthy snacks, and take this home to share with their families, but the school has no money in their budget this year to make such a wonderful program happen. That’s where I come in! I research and find organizations (usually foundations) who are looking to fund particular projects. If a community foundation aims to support programs that focus on youth, the environment, and nutrition, this would be a perfect match! But of course that is only the beginning. Grants are a process that needs planning far in advance. It is a highly competitive field (everyone wants money!). And the money only lasts for a certain period of time, which means sustainability needs to be considered as well. In the end, getting awarded grant money is a very exciting opportunity for a nonprofit organization. Oh the possibilities!
Whew! Was that too much information or what?! Any questions on this topic, please feel free to comment or message me directly. To learn more on grants and the grant writing process, check out these resources:
Grant Writing for Dummies, 4th edition by Beverly A. Browning
Getting Grants by Alexis Carter-Black
90 Days to Success in Grant Writing by Timothy and Judith Kachinske
Grant Writing 101
This blog contains anything and everything nonprofit, grants, youth development, outdoor education, and more. Really, this is just an informal way to chat more about what I love! Enjoy :)