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Family

Jessica Rowe's plans for getting Aussie kids outdoors for Outdoor Classroom Day

And she's beginning at home.

By Rebel Wylie
Like all of us, journalist and mum-of-two, Jessica Rowe can find herself bogged down in the day-to-day 'stuff' that comes along with motherhood. The kind of 'stuff' that means sometimes we forget to stop and smell the roses … literally.
"I think we can all get so busy after school with activities, homework and just life that it takes away the time where families and kids can get that sheer joy of unorganised wild, play," says Jess.
"That kind of play where there's no timetable, off you go and use your imagination and just enjoy being outside."
And she's not alone, that lack of free-play is common throughout Australia.
"Despite being pegged as an 'outdoorsy' nation, we're not," says Jess. "Overscheduling of kids lives, safety concerns and technology are getting in the way of the simple things - like free, unstructured play outdoors. Aussie kids are spending far less time outside than we did growing up - and that needs to change."
Passionate about driving that change and getting kids outdoors, Jessica AKA The Crap Housewife, has taken on the role of Outdoor Classroom Day ambassador, championing more awareness of the benefits of outdoor time to parents across Australia.
Taking lessons outdoors has huge benefits for kids and teachers.
We've all seen the enjoyment kids get when playing outdoors. But there's a depth of research to say it has way more to offer - from physical, to mental, social, even academic benefits. And when classes are taken outside, it's been shown kids actually can learn more when they learn outdoors.
And she's practising what she preaches. When it comes to raising her daughters, Allegra - 11 and Gisele, nine Jessica is making lifestyle changes that ensure her family spends as much time outdoors as possible.
"Daylight Savings has been great," Jess admits. 'We've started making simple changes, like taking the homework outside to do, which is such a small thing but really significant in how much it switches up the way they feel about doing homework."

Jess also credits not overscheduling the kids as a way they've been able to make more time for free-play.
"When you're not rushing from one thing to the next, it really allows that time for the kind of spontaneous family time that has no timetable or schedule."
Putting down her own phone and device is another way that Jess has been modelling the kind of lifestyle she wants for her girls.
"I find if I hide my phone away and have it out of reach, I'm not so inclined to just grab it and start scrolling," says the former Studio 10 host. "I figure if the kids don't constantly see me with my face stuck in a screen they will be less inclined to do it themselves."
Continues after video ...
Outdoor Classroom Day is on November 1 and encourages outdoor time, and outdoor learning in the school environment.
"I know I feel better when I've had some time outdoors," says Jess. "And I know that kids, and their teachers would too, which is why this is such a great initiative."
Parents are encouraged to speak with their schools and get them to register online where there are resources available on ways to implement outdoor time into a regular school day.
And there's some pretty enticing stats around why it is such a good idea.
  • 85 percent of teachers in Australia want more time to take lessons outdoors.
  • Only 15 percent of Aussie primary school kids take lessons outdoors daily.
  • Children are more likely to develop anxiety and depression in their teens (or even earlier) if they are not given free, unstructured play.
  • 78 percent of children who spend regular time in unstructured play are better able to concentrate and perform better in the classroom.
  • Finnish students, who regularly rank at the top in OECD maths, science and reading tests and wellbeing indicators, are required to be outside for 15 minutes every hour. Even in winter!
Schools can register to join in Outdoor Classroom Day on November 1.
For Jess, it's the fact that the changes are simple ones to make that sees her championing this cause.
"Spending more time outdoors doesn't take much more effort than not doing it," says Jess.
"It doesn't involve a lot more for us to do … Actually it's less in the sense of slowing down and stopping to think, 'Can we do this outside?' or can we say 'Let's not rush to this place or that place, let's just take some time to be here right now.
"We can get Aussie kids back outside again, it's simpler than we think."
You can find out more about the benefits of outdoor play and learning and the difference that Outdoor Classroom Day is making in schools around the world by registering your school here.

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