We youngsters roamed the woods behind our homes, caught crawdads in creeks, gathered sacks of black walnuts and snacked on blackberries from thorny drooping stalks on the sunny fencerows separating woodlots from farmers’ fields.
If you enjoyed some of these same experiences, you were lucky indeed.
Reading a recent blog on strengthening communities through school gardens by Michael Hatcher, founder and owner of Michael Hatcher & Associates in Memphis, Tennessee, took me back decades. It caused me to pause and muse at just how fortunate many of us were (not that we realized it at the time) growing up with nature and greenery all around us.
Children living in many of our neighborhoods are not as fortunate. In our fast-food, 32-ounce soda world, texting and digital gaming seem to have replaced the joy of exploring nature, helping to plant or tend a garden or even playing outdoors. Is it any wonder that childhood obesity is one of our nation’s most pernicious but largely ignored health crisis?
We green industry pros can help reverse that, even if it is just one small but significant project at a time.
One such organization making this happen is Project Evergreen. This well-established national green industry organization has undertaken dozens of such projects over the past 20 years. Another younger program with similar aims is Come Alive Outside. Hatcher alerted me to this worthwhile program via his recent blog.
You weren’t aware of Come Alive Outside? Briefly, here are some details of the program.
Come Alive Outside is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose primary goal is to get young people off their backsides, away from their phones and tablets – even for a small time – and outside and active again – be it gardening, playing, exploring, indeed any positive outdoor activity.
Come Alive Outside has two main components: the Design Challenge and the Green Street Challenge.
The program’s website describes it as such: “Come Alive Outside Design Challenge creates the opportunity for college, high school, elementary and preschool students to work together with landscape professionals to design and build engaging outdoor learning environments at schools and childcare facilities.”
Hatcher and his team, partnering with The Kitchen Community (another non-profit), hosted the 2015-2016 Come Alive Outside Design Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. The company worked with top college landscape architecture and landscape management students from several universities and colleges in the Mid-South to design a “learning garden” at Memphis Catholic Middle and High School. Students and teachers at the school provided input into the project, as well. Hatcher’s company completed the school landscape installation in the summer of 2016, and plans to install more learning gardens at schools in its Memphis-area market.
The Green Street Challenge, the other leg of the Come Alive Outside platform, seeks support in laying down sod and creating temporary parks and play areas on prominent streets in communities across North America. The program is expanding to 10 communities in Ontario and 10 communities in the United States in 2017.
Come Alive Outside is a huge win for participating companies, sponsors and the green industry as a whole. Go to their website to learn more about this relatively new program and check out its goals and the work it does, including Hatcher’s Memphis school project.