It’s an on the road again kind of summer for our family. In Baie Comeau, Quebec near the beginning of our camping safari, this sign makes me think about that late, great 1940s American road odyssey immortalized in print by Jack Keraouc and celebrated in song by the 10,000 Maniacs.
In contrast to that rowdy, beat defining Americana, our 2,000 kilometer camping tour across three provinces in nineteen days is a distillation of simple pleasures. Roads and ferries connect us from one pocket of green to another. As we cozy in to explore, we soak up sounds, sights and smells that have no parallel in urban landscapes.
The kids are steeped in play and adventure in equal measures. At Parc du Bic, Parcs du Fjord-du-Saguenay, Lac Témiscouata and Cap Jaseux we climb, hike swim and revel in the natural surroundings. From Tadoussac’s coastal boulders we see whales blow then roll gracefully beneath the surface. In the parks there are deer, eagles, herons, hawks, groundhogs, chipmunks, squirrels and each morning darting songbirds nudging us into wakefulness.
Back at the campsites, there are endless rounds of grounders, tag, capture the flag, 50 – 50 and other games with a varying cast of kids from Québec, Europe and other parts of Canada. The Parks system provides free bikes for children. There’s a lot of active transportation along the dusty serpentine roads…
All the while, a slate of Summer of PLEY activities and events led by Dr. Michelle Stone’s Dalhousie University crew continues in Halifax. Just prior to our departure on the camping trail, an outdoors loose parts extravaganza with 200+ playful kids creates a new wave of ambassadors for unbridled fun and demonstrates alternatives for outdoor play that are not playground dependent.
The Summer of PLEY moves from the spontaneity of kids with loose parts to the more studied style of public presentations. Dr. Mariana Brussoni from the University of British Columbia and a frequent media commentator on risk and outdoor play comes to town for a couple of public engagements including a keynote – Risk, Resilience and and the Renaissance of Play (click through for video). Additional videos from the Summer of PLEY series available here.
Dr. Brussoni is in Halifax on National Play Day, August 7. The day is being revived by the Canadian chapter of the International Play Association (IPA) to encourage public play events across the country – disclosure, I’m a board member. Dr. Brussoni, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and the Chief Medical Officer for Nova Scotia, Dr. Robert Strang are game to get their play on for the cameras in support of kids and play. This is one of my favourite pics from their photo session.
Dr. Strang, Mayor Savage and Dr. Brussoni getting their play on at Fort Needham Memorial Park on IPA Canada’s National Play Day.
Maybe we’ll be able to use these pics for promotional purposes next year….
Our meander through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Québec finally comes to an end as we pull into our Eastern Passage home for a couple of days. Before we know it, the girls and I are off to Prince Edward Island where I make a short presentation on the value of outdoors nature play at the Atlantic Summer Institute Forum – Supportive Environments for Youth Mental Health.
It’s an honour to be there to listen to stellar presenters with deep experience supporting mental health. The keynote speaker – Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia helps to set the tone with a meditation on welcoming and attachment.
The conference inspires me to launch a new project, Atlantic Canada Adventures, still very much in the early days – more on welcoming and attachment coming soon. The adventures relate to identifying activities, places and strategies to help kids develop a deeper connection with nature and with Atlantic Canada’s rich natural ecosystems.
Not long until school starts back now. We’re off on our last summer camping trip today. Back in September….