nrs2011

Just looking through the photos from the last day of the Summit - I especially like the one of the whole group which captures a moment of many emotions - triumph, that we got through the entire agenda, thoughtful musings about the presentations we heard, and a little bit of sadness that it was over.

But... it's not really over as the final summary should be out soon with some next steps identified.

It's been a long day with so many really exciting and challenging ideas, that it's hard to know where to start. We have slides from most of the presenters today, so I won't try to summarize those for you, but Graham Clyne spoke today with some thought provoking (and provocative) statements:

  • Benefits of social programs splatter across systems and recreation has the biggest splatter
  • In recreation it can be difficult to develop the evidence of the benefits because rec programs are not tightly controlled situations, but we must embrace a culture of evaluation
  • We need to produce evidence that will resonate with local decision makers
  • What passes for diversity is people from different cultures who agree with us
  • Be careful about creating a national recreation statement when recreation is done at the provincial and local level
  • Recreation needs to be positioned squarely at the centre of human and social services
  • You can frame your evidence from the point of view of fear or opportunity - fear often works well

You have been getting only a skim of the surface from these blogs, but after the summit I hope we will find ways to augment the information that is available online now.

Richard Luov asked today - Will we be the last generation to think it's normal for children to play in the woods, and to play in unstructured ways? He went on to say that many people have a negative view of what the world will look like in the future, and if we don't have a positive image we will never be able to attain it.

This afternoon's theme was Respecting Nature and Our Environment, and the speakers focused on play, on children in nature and bringing nature into the urban environment.

Around the world, more people now live in cities than in rural areas, so we need to develop a new kind of city - one in which people can connect to nature - especially children.

Richard spoke of the new nature movement, which is being built by people from all walks of life - natural teachers, citizen naturalists, community gardeners, urban farmers, therapeutic landscapers, and outdoor recreationists.

He spoke passionately about the need to reconnect children with nature and a U.S. movement of self-developed Family Nature Clubs. These are informal gatherings of families who meet in the parks to experience and appreciate their local habitat. He sees these kinds of self-replicating groups as building a constituency of parks supporters.

Jane Hewes spoke about the resurgence of interest in the value of play, and defined play as related to but separate from recreation and leisure. Play must be controlled by children. Play takes place in the present moment and can make time stand still.

Susan Herrington spoke about her work in designing children's plays paces and showed some wonderful videos of children at play. She noted that the traditional playground equipment n her studies of child care centres was unused 88% of the time, while children looked for more creative things to do in the playground. The equipment was used as it was intended only about 3%of the time.

This morning's presentation by Dr. Trevor Hancock, and the panel presentations were excellent. You can download them all from the NRS site so I won't try to reiterate them here, but a few comments jumped out:

  • We need to unlearn medicine in order to learn about health
  • Poverty is an epidemic greater than SARS and HIV
  • The healthy choices need to be the easy choices
  • We can't move large numbers of people to healthy neighbourhoods, so we need to create better neighbourhoods
  • "Don't smoke" was a simple message. Eat healthy and be active are much more complex
  • Human health is completely dependent  on ecosystem health
  • Recreation has a role to play that no one else can play but we need to figure out what that role is.

Carl Honoré was the keynote speaker last night, "In Praise of Slow".  Speed yoga, drive-through funerals, hyper-parenting, and the one-minute bedtime story should give us all a wake up call  - it's time to slow down.  Slow is about doing things at the right speed, and about quality over quantity.

But he says there are signs that change is coming. The slow food movement and the renaissance of farmers' markets, and slow cities, where quality of life, public art and recreation are given top priority are becoming more common Some workplaces are slowing things down by shortening work hours, encouraging staff to change the pace of work throughout the day, and by taking more control of technology (check your email less often!).

Recreation is not a frill or a luxury, and in a tough economy we all need recreation more than ever. So here are a few of Carl's suggestions for how the recreation profession can contribute to the movement:

Reboot the relationship with nature. In England, outdoor preschool programs are helping toddlers to be creative, healthier and more independent. Community gardens are providing opportunities for people to connect with nature and improve nutrition.

Dial down the pressure on kids - the "Ready, Set, Slow" initiative sees whole communities canceling homework and extracurricular activities for a day, so everyone can enjoy free, unstructured time. Youth sports can put more emphasis on play and less on competition.
 More challenging playgrounds that are not so focused on safety will be more fun for kids.

Carl challenged the delegates over the course of the summit to think about:

  • how to measure a healthy society based on criteria and to make sure recreation is part of what's being measured. (He cited the new Canadian Index of Wellbeing as a good example):
  • how to bring recreation into the core of urban planning;
  • collaborating with different disciplines;
  • being more open to communities and bringing the people who will live with the solutions into the conversations at the beginning;
  • changing the language of recreation to express its deeper meanings. That might include leisure counselors in schools alongside the career counselors or having leisure literacy as part of the curriculum.

Lots of food for thought and I've only scratched the surface!

Arrived in Lake Louise this afternoon to brilliant sunshine and snow.  Hiking beside the lake was really inspiring and an excellent start to the program, especially as the keynote address was to address the slow movement - taking time to smell the mountain air. Glad I had a chance to get out today as the rest of the time is jam-packed with a very challenging schedule.

We all have our sacred cows. You know, the way we've always done things. And the truth is, it often takes a lot to get us to try something new. We have our tried and true and, especially when we're stressed, we tend to fall back on what we know. It's not unlike cooking. Like many others, when I'm busy or rushed, it's the favourite recipes that I reach for. Yet, if we want to go in a different direction, relying on our old recipes is like only paddling on one side of the canoe. Not only will we have difficulty getting to a new place, we will be traveling in circles. It is true, as Alberta Einstein once said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them".

Ultimately I think that's why I'm so excited about the upcoming National Recreation Summit. Even before we arrive we're reading thought-provoking papers that are suggesting new ways of thinking and doing. As such, they are a reminder of how critical it is for each of us to remain open and receptive to doing things differently. And, once we arrive in the beautiful Lake Louise, we will hear from a variety of experts, and push our thinking by connecting to thought leaders from across the country. More than anything, we'll have the luxury of time for rich and courageous conversations about the power and possibilities of recreation and parks. After all, if we're serious about wanting different results in our lives, organizations, and communities, we're going to have to apply new strategies and new ways of determining our priorities.

There has never been a better time for our field and the potential role recreation, sports, parks, arts, culture, and active living can play in developing healthy individuals, vibrant communities, and a strong economy and environment. I can't wait to get started.
--
Brenda Herchmer
Director, ACE Communities
Alberta Recreation and Parks Association
[email protected]
Sign up for our newsletter at www.acecommunities.ca
Phone: 780.643.1774
Home Office: 780.488.8136
Follow us at http://twitter.com/aceupdate/

I am very much looking forward to participating in the upcoming Recreation Summit at Lake Louise. A national gathering to discuss the future of recreation in Canada is long overdue.

Given the evolution that our sector has experienced over the past couple of decades, I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities that will most certainly arise from this impressive event. The commissioned papers are thought provoking and deal with topics relevant to Summit participants from government, recreation and parks associations and aligned stakeholder groups.

I am confident that the Summit will result in strategies and initiatives that will guide our field for years to come.

John Frittenburg

Watch this blog for ongoing posts during the summit - we will be bringing you photos, summaries of discussions, and videos of some of the presentations.

Our intention is to provide an informal and very current record of the summit, for those who are not attending but want to feel connected.

You will also be able to stay connected via Twitter (#nrs2011) and Facebook, so watch for things to heat up as the summit gets underway!