Message-from-the-Director

Message from the Director

I have some really interesting information to share. I recently attended a "Nature Champions" workshop conducted by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). I always viewed the National Park Rangers as uniformed men and women who protect and maintain all of the federal nature reserves, the national parks and waterways. But they are much more than that. I was truly impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm of these Rangers (who are based at the Visitor Center in the French Quarter) about individual and population health. I met five of these Rangers as well as the Director of NEEF. And they are all about connecting individuals, families, and all kinds of groups with nature in a way that promotes physical, mental, social and spiritual health. The Children and Nature Initiative: Rx for Outdoor Activity is a nationwide initiative by both NEEF and the National Park Rangers. Through this initiative they promote nature and outdoor activity and sponsor many events that do just that. They have been especially successful regarding events for family groups through which families together become re-acquainted with nature and enjoy the physical exhilaration of the outdoors of many varied environments, marshes, swamps, watercourses, parks, forests, etc. Some of their activities have included Ranger-led nature walks, jazz yoga under the trees, and nutrition and health counseling. Who knew? The Rangers were diligent in reminding us that: "Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness." In other words, children will be brighter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors. Just as a reminder about what is available to us in southern Louisiana area, we have the six sites of Jean Lafitte: 1) Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, LA; 2) Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, LA; 3) Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, LA; 4) the French Quarter in New Orleans (one Ranger mentioned that just walking around the French Quarter can give you from 3 to 8 miles coverage in just one day); 5) Barataria Preserve; and 6) Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. The Park Service assures us that they strive to make all of their facilities, services and programs accessible to all. So, as a really neat – and healthy – thing to do this summer, get your family together, get a group of families together, get your kids and grandkids and their friends together. Contact the Rangers at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve at 419 Decatur St, phone: 504-589-3882, or www.nps.gov/jela, to set up a nature outing that will be one of a kind. Just do it! You will love it!

Carolyn C. Johnson, PhD, FAAHB
Director, Tulane Prevention Research Center
June 2016

Topics:   walking , physical activity , community health , built environment

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