Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man

Michael Apted a storied feature film and documentary director passed away at 79 years of age last week. He is mourned by family, friends, industry peers, cinephiles and a select cohort of 60 somethings that he first encountered as a young man 56 years ago.

Still from Seven Up! documentary, The Link

Back in the early 60s, Apted worked with Granada Television. As a researcher, one of his assignments was to find 14 children whose life circumstances reflected England’s socio-economic spectrum. The children were being scouted to participate in the documentary Seven Up! at that time conceived of as a one off project exploring the possible influences of the British class system on their lives.

In the original 1964 ITV broadcast, directed by Canadian Paul Almond, the seven-year-olds (4 girls and 10 boys) were treated to a party, a visit to London Zoo and a playground outing. Closing out the program, the kids zigged, zagged and zipped in an animated and sometimes rambunctious romp through what some believe to have been London’s Notting Hill Adventure Playground.

The New York Times Magazine characterized it as “…a grim hazardous-looking pit of an “adventure” playground.” From my vantage point the description smacks of dramatic license and hyperbole all rolled into one. In any case, on that day there was an abundance of joy, exuberance, discovery and yes, adventure as the clip below captures.

Over the years, what was initially thought of as a stand alone became the lead in to the critically acclaimed and much talked about Up series. Apted was in the director’s chair for what became a lifelong passion and arguably the longest longitudinal documentary on record.

Participants were interviewed at seven year intervals over the course of six decades sharing their ups, downs, dreams, accomplishments and failures. A loyal viewing audience kept returning for more with each new installment. What is most likely the final episode, 63 Up, was released in 2019.

Apted regretted not including an equal number of girls and boys when he selected the children. He went on to direct women in powerful roles in several critically acclaimed films including Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and Nell (1994).

Michael Apted thank you for your role in this extraordinary series and for letting the kids loose to play that day so many years ago. Their youthfulness, daring and wonderment are a bright beacon in somber times.

 

All Hands on Deck – Magdalen Islands’ Boats of Play

What a bruising we took in 2020. Hopefully, this year we can begin charting new horizons, steering a steadier course.

This is a photo story about playscapes infused with maritime traditions by the communities that designed and built them to celebrate play.  Click through to the The Magdalen Islands’ Boats of Play to see how they are of the place, anchored to the archipelago.

Share photos of Boats of Play from your community here.

A Chance Encounter

Here we are, Noah and I, starting out on one of our early morning fishing adventures. We make a beeline to a spot that still has a new feeling to it. Down the steep wooded bank we scuffle brushing branches aside to reach the water’s edge. It is still, quiet, and the summer sun is crashing off the water.

Time is a liquid loop, cast… reel… cast… reel. Noah is the leader of our outing. His angling chops are based on years of research and practical field experience. He is happy to share his knowledge of where to find the fish and how to reel them in. He is a generous helper to right my sometimes clumsy mien.


Three smallmouth bass are our reward for a leisurely morning meander along the small lake’s banks. Each one is catch and release, each one is reeled in by my son who will fish anywhere at the drop of a hat.

Following the shore we attempt a walk around the lake. From our vantage point it looks possible. Approaching the farther shore our exploring is temporarily impeded by a brook. On the other side is thick brush, trees with no visible path.

We leave nature behind briefly to cut through a residential area that allows us to access the woods on the other side and walk toward a path that circles the rest of the lake. This is the moment of our chance encounter, a shelter tucked in behind the edge of an urban wood.


It is magnificent in and of itself, even moreso given its location in proximity to residential neighbourhoods. I hope we will work hard to preserve our city’s natural spaces. There is a calmness and quiet abandon in these spaces, a timeless enjoyment in the best company. We will be back on many an occasion…

 

World Children’s Day

World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is celebrated on 20 November each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

November 20th is an important date as it is the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since 1990, World Children’s Day also marks the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted both the Declaration and the Convention on children’s rights.

Mothers and fathers, teachers, nurses and doctors, government leaders and civil society activists, religious and community elders, corporate moguls and media professionals, as well as young people and children themselves, can play an important part in making World Children’s Day relevant for their societies, communities and nations.

World Children’s Day offers each of us an inspirational entry-point to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children.

This year, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a child rights crisis. The costs of the pandemic for children are immediate and, if unaddressed, may last a lifetime.

It’s time for generations to come together to reimagine the type of world we want to create. On 20 November, kids will reimagine a better world. What will you do?

### Join our #voicesofyouth illustration challenge!
Are you 13-24 years old and love drawing?
Do you want to change the world?
We’re looking for you! Together, we can reimagine a greener and more sustainable future, for every child.

As World Children’s Day approaches, we invite you to draw your interpretation of the world you want to build after COVID-19 and submit your drawings through our Voices of Youth website, following these steps, and join #voicesofyouth illustration challenge!

 

In the aftermath of World War II, the plight of Europe’s children was grave, and a new agency created by the United Nations stepped in to provide food and clothing and health care to these children. In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the UN. Today, the agency works in more than 190 countries and territories, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Related observances

4 June: International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

12 June: World Day Against Child Labour

12 August: International Youth Day

11 October: International Day of the Girl Child

Why do we mark International Days?

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.

Never Gets Old

In July 2019 I was proud to be on the team that organized a loose parts event on the Halifax Common that attracted 200+ kids on a perfect summer’s day.

Dr. Michelle Stone of Dalhousie University, with support from The Lawson Foundation, led the Summer of PLEY project including this loose parts pop-up. She invited a cross-section of researchers, students and practitioners to help her pump up the play. With the largest variety and greatest number of loose parts seen in Nova Scotia, the more, the merrier theme characterized the day.

Here’s the video shot by A for Adventure which has just been released. So many moments of discovery, joyful abandon and freedom. Enjoy….

It is really a privilege to see how children play with loose parts, how they work together to build, create, explore and have fun. Wonder, inspiration and energy are always in great abundance.

After leading, or helping to organize about a dozen public loose parts play events in Halifax, my experience is that it never gets old, never does. The smaller scale loose parts play taking place regularly in our backyard over the past five years continues to be enthusiastically embraced by kids throughout the neighbourhood, another indication of its everfresh qualities.

Long live loose parts and may their use become more widespread.

Happy birthday to our daughter Nellie who turns 13 today.

 

Children and the City Questionnaire Results

Results of the Children and the City questionnaire distributed to candidates running in Halifax’s municipal election are now available . An overview of candidate responses and overall results are posted in today’s digital edition of The Chronicle Herald.

Responses from candidates are unedited. There are individual results for each of the 16 electoral districts, results that capture mayoral candidates’ responses, and finally all responses are available in a single document.

Documents are stored on Google Drive. If readers experience difficulties with viewing the documents, the download function offers an alternative. Another option is to access the All Candidates responses on Dropbox for viewing or download.

Questionnaire results offer Halifax residents another lens through which they can consider how to cast their votes on October 17. I’m grateful to the candidates who contributed their thoughts and perspectives on improving children’s well-being in Halifax. Without a critical mass of participants it would not have made sense to continue the project. Always an optimist, I see the 55 per cent participation rate as firmly in glass half-full territory.

 

When talking about the benefits of child-friendly cities it’s important to emphasize that child-friendly cities benefit everyone – Kathryn Morse, Candidate District 10

 

I invite readers to browse through the results, particularly for their own electoral district, and determine how well the responses align, or not, with their own views. It was very heartening to see a significant majority of municipal candidates agreeing that UNICEF’s child-friendly cities approach could benefit the well-being of children in Halifax. Of the 46 respondents, 76 per cent were in agreement. An additional 17 per cent indicated interest but required further study prior to making a decision.

Once the dust has settled and councillors have been elected, I hope there will be opportunities for interested Halifax residents to engage on theses issues and build on the good work that Council is leading to help improve the well-being of our children.

This HRM 4 Kids civic project functioned on a strictly non-partisan basis.

I am always interested in comments from readers particularly if you are aware of similar projects involving candidates in municipal elections.

A final word to Mike Savage, our incumbent Mayor.

Planning a city that is safe and healthy for children is really planning a city that is safe and healthy for all.

 

Participation Levels on All Candidates’ Child Well-Being Questionnaire

Halifax, Nova Scotia, home of PlayGroundology, is in the midst of a municipal election cycle. Voting at the polls is slated for October 17. This year, I’ve embarked on a grass-roots, non-partisan civic project. It’s quite simple, I reached out to candidates with a brief questionnaire related to children’s well-being. Their responses will shed some light on their priorities and interest in making Halifax a more child-friendly city.

Not having any real experience in asking candidates questions for the public record during the course of an election, I’m not sure what to make of the participation level. If any readers have experience administering surveys to candidates running for office at the municipal level, I’d be happy if you could share some insights.

A quick note on methodology:

  • Contact information for candidates was sourced from the Official Candidates – 2020 Municipal and CSAP Elections page on the Halifax website;
  • The original request with the questionnaire was sent to all candidates on September 28;
  • A follow-up request was sent on October 1;
  • A last call reminder was sent on October 5;
  • There are 83 candidates vying for 16 seats on Council, this excludes those seeking the Mayor’s office;
  • Our revised candidate number, excluding the mayoralty, comes in at 81. One candidate provided no contact information on the Official Candidates page noted above. Information for another candidate posted on the Official Candidates page was inaccurate. This is the number that will be used when determining global candidate engagement.
  • Mayoral candidates will be featured separately.

The preliminary results look at response rates for all candidates, subsets of all candidates and district specific information. Many thanks to the candidates who made the time to respond to the four questions related to child well-being.

Readers, what are your thoughts on a 54% response rate for the questionnaire? Out of the 81 reachable candidates for Council, 44 responded and here they are.


 


There are 11 incumbents on the ballot this time around. There were 6 of the 11 who did not respond to the questionnaire.

We would be better served by our incumbents – given the work they’ve done and the experience they’ve gained working for the city and their constituents – if they would give more consideration to participating in all questionnaires that seek to increase understanding of issues that have a broad impact.

Thanks to the incumbents who did participate – Shawn Cleary, David Hendsbee, Waye Mason, Paul Russel and Lindell Smith.

Overall, the non-incumbents had a stronger performance than the incumbents vis à vis responding to the questionnaire as Chart 3 below illustrates.

I would like to share two final charts as we wrap up this overview focusing on candidate participation and lack thereof. The two charts below provide a breakdown by district of the percentage of candidates who responded to the questionnaire. You will note that there is a great deal of variance.

In Districts 1 through 8, with one exception, participation rates are at 50% or above with District 8 coming in at 100% participation.

Districts 9 through 16 are on the opposite end of the spectrum. After the 100% participation rate in District 9, it’s all downhill with 50% or less participation rates in the remaining seven Districts.

It’s heartening to see that all candidates from Districts 8 and 9, three and five candidates respectively, responded to the questionnaire. It’s unfortunate no candidates from Districts 6 and 16, three and one candidate respectively, responded to the questionnaire. In the case of District 16, the incumbent is the only one offering and as a result he will be acclaimed.

All submitted candidate responses will be posted online over the coming week. I am in the process of working on an opinion piece for The Chronicle Herald that I anticipate will be published next week. It will touch on the roll-up of candidate responses to the four questions and a reflection on the municipal election.

Once again, thanks to the candidates who responded to the questionnaire, I look forward to sharing your thoughts and insights.

If candidates who have not yet participated are interested in submitting responses, I would be pleased to include them online and in the opinion piece roll-up.

Found this lovely graphic on the @hfxpublib Twitter feed. Let’s VOTE.

 

 

Local Candidates Asked About Well-being of Children

Earlier today a short letter was sent to candidates running for office in the October 17 municipal elections for the Halifax Regional Municipality. There are three candidates running for Mayor and an additional 83 running for 16 seats on Council. Out of the 16 Districts, there is only one uncontested seat.

The letter to candidates contains four questions linked to improving the well-being of children in the city.

I am very encouraged with the early responses from candidates right across the city’s 16 Districts. Thank you to all those who have already participated.

Candidates who do not respond will be recorded as a ‘nil response’ in the October 1 post.

Many thanks to the candidates for taking the time to consider how we can improve the well-being of children in HRM. I look forward to posting everyone’s responses on October 1.

 

 

We Play, We Are

In our Nova Scotia home on Canada’s East Coast we begin our lock down on March 21. There is worry and fear not knowing what lies ahead, having no reference points to help us get our bearing. At the outset, the lock down takes the form of a shelter in place. We should only be leaving our local area to get food or for medical reasons.

There is no visiting with neighbours, family, or friends. There are no organized sports or extracurricular activities for the kids. Schools are shut down and remote learning is introduced. We are able to go out in our neighbourhood as long as we practice physical distancing when we meet others.

We are thankful that in comparison to other countries, the pandemic is not as as severe in Nova Scotia. We continue to be of hushed breath though knowing the storm continues to strike around the world and the virus shows no signs of being vanquished.

Check the We Play, We Are photo story here.

 

Stronger Than Ever

Editor’s Note – This poem, written by our daughter Nellie-Rose circa nine-years-old, was uncovered during a deep cleaning of my home office this weekend. It speaks to me of our times and of play’s elemental beat. She no longer remembers the significance of the title. It’s included as part of the original work. I’m ready to immigrate to Cloud Cove and sing this anthem loudly…

Cloud Cove’s National Song

Outside in the sun we love to play.
It’s what we do every single day.
We climb up trees and go on our bikes
And play with friends day and night.

We live in our world altogether
Now we are stronger, stronger than ever

Everyone come, come play in our world
We are going to have some fun altogether
Now you know that we stay together
You can’t split us up even if you’re better

We live in our world altogether
Now we are stronger, stronger than ever.