Hello everybody! I'd like to invite you to participate in a new project to raise awareness about Family Nature Clubs. To participate, just start tagging your Instagram posts with #familynatureclub. Details below:

The Family Nature Club Instagram Project is an effort to raise awareness of Family Nature Clubs and inspire parents to get involved. I started it because of my experiences with my Family Nature Club and growing consciousness (and bewilderment!) of how unaware the public is of this awesome tool to getting children connected to nature.

The project is inspired by Childhood Unplugged project, which you can view here: https://www.instagram.com/childhoodunplugged/

The Childhood Unplugged project is a group of photographers who are making an effort to encourage children to get back to the art of play. This is accomplished by curating fantastic photographs of children at play on Instagram. The results have been profound in just two years:

* The IG account has 70k followers
* The tag # childhoodunplugged has nearly 700k (yes, 700 thousand) posts, see https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/childhoodunplugged/

What this means is that 700k images have been posted by individuals within the concept of Childhood Unplugged. It is so awesome and amazing and inspiring to me.

Currently, the tag # familynatureclub has ~ fifty posts (yes 50), see https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/familynatureclub/ --- and most of these are mine. This is disheartening for something as amazing as FNC. But it shows we have a lot of opportunity!

My belief is that by increasing the proliferation of posts using # familynatureclub on IG we will increase the awareness of FNCs. Here's the current plan:

I've set up a new Family Nature Club IG account https://www.instagram.com/familynatureclub/. Like Childhood Unplugged, this is a curated feed of inspirational/informative images from the experiences of children in FNCs. On a frequent basis (at least one daily, maybe more often) an image will be featured from a leader or participant in a FNC.

To get involved, just add the tag #familynatureclub to your posts.

I am using Hootsuite to monitor images posted with #familynatureclub tag and will repost the best images, including attributing whose image it is. You can see some examples of how I've featured posts from a few leaders who have joined the project.

Initially, I will work to get leaders of FNCs interested in participating. As we grow the effort, I am hopeful to get participants of FNCs to participate. As I run my own club, I've already been able to get one member to start tagging their posts this way. My hope is that over time we can grow this to be an active and vibrant community and people who are not yet aware of FNCs will get exposure, over and over, to the idea.

The project is in its very embryonic stage right now, which means I am just starting to build support with a core group of people.

Over the coming week/month(s) I'll work to get a webpage up that explains the project and make it easier for people to learn how to get involved.

Once the project picks up velocity and prominence, I would love if others are interested in taking turns curating the feed (although I'm not sure yet exactly how to do that technically but I know it is possible). This would be more valuable/fun for curators once the volume of posts to select to feature from is higher. I'm also totally open to any kind of suggestions for this idea, I'm not trying to own it, I just want to see it happen.

At the moment, what we need to start this project is a handful of dedicated people who post their images and now start to tag them with #familynatureclub. Because Instagram is most potent with good images, taking time to photograph high quality inspirational/information images is a worthy place to put attention. That being said, I'm no professional photographer and still some of my pictures turn out OK with just an iPhone and the IG filters and a little care.

I'm VERY excited that others are interested in this! I was amazed to see that with all the millions of children that FNCs help get out into nature that there is so little activity around the #familynatureclub tag. Certainly, technology and screens is not the core idea of FNCs but the reality is that to reach certain audiences IG is a valuable marketing channel. As you can see from Childhood Unplugged, the results are terrific. I think there is a good opportunity here and all it takes is a small amount of time each week.

I welcome any questions/concerns/ideas!

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you to increase awareness of Family Nature Clubs!



A bit about me:

My name is Jason Runkel Sperling. Last spring I started a very small Family Nature Club called Running Wild in Boulder, CO, inviting just a few friends. Since starting the club and continuing to put energy into it, Running Wild has steadily grow and at one of our recent events I was amazed to see 25 people join, including 15 children for an amazingly magical trek on a series of frozen ponds. Very memorable and wonderful. I approached Running Wild as an experiment, and it began and continues as a small private and unpublicized group that I only invite folks from my children's schools to join. Our current age range is around 3 - 7 and we focus most of our events on Unstructured Nature Play but also do the occasional mountain biking, boating, hiking, rock climbing, and camping events. This year I made a resolution to start organizing events 1x/week and to start experimenting with adding in some education. So far we have upcoming events with a naturalist, with a primitive skills training, and at a farm. We meet all year round and are 99% of the time outside (the exception at the moment is rock climbing, which will transition to outdoor if we all decide to get more serious about it). I'm an Eagle Scout and am very interested in finding a model that allows my whole family to participate, including my daughter, son, wife, and parents (as they wish) in an outdoor program that offers similar outdoor, nature, free experiences as I enjoyed growing up and in Boy Scouts. I am extremely grateful for C&NN, Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods that introduced me to the idea of Family Nature Clubs and for the help from Janice Swaisgood over the last year. Excited to hearing more about how other people run their clubs and their experiences!

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