Spring Green


pril is a green month, and in more ways than one. First and foremost, it is the month when spring really begins to take hold across much of the country. Trees green up, flowers burst forth, and many people take pleasure in a sense of renewal. They clean out their homes, and shake off the mental dust left after a long, dreary winter (unless they're lucky enough to live where winter's frosty fingers cannot reach).

Spring is also a time when many folks choose to get back outside, if they've been cooped up all winter, engaging in more activities and getting more involved in their community. And April is a month of celebrations that offer the perfect opportunity for recreation, sports and fitness facility managers to take advantage of this inclination and offer programming and activities that suit the need to get out and get involved. Let's look at a few:

First of all, April is rather famously the month of Earth Day, which takes place on April 22, and is an obvious celebration of all things "green." Cities and organizations across the country offer ways for citizens to get involved in Earth Day activities. Why not "invite" people out to local parks and trails to help clean up the litter that always seems to lie in wait under the winter snow. Or if you've got a facility with green features, offer up some education on those features to your visitors on this day. Or you can bring in an expert to give a lesson to patrons on how they can go a little greener in their own lives. With the recession putting a crunch on many household budgets, folks might be pleased and surprised to find that they can save a little scratch by going a little greener.

Earth Day falls this year within another annual occurrence: Turnoff Week. This campaign to encourage people to turn off their televisions, computers and other screens to connect with families and friends and engage in their communities takes place from April 20 to 26.

Why make a big deal about tuning out for the week? On average, people watch four hours of television and spend another four-plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones (outside of work hours) every day. And nearly 30 years of research added up shows that too much time with screens—and not enough interacting with real people and nature—is unhealthy, both mentally and physically. Time with screens eats into family time. Time with screens is a fairly obviously contributing factor in the overwhelming rates of obesity among both adults and children, as excessive use of TV and other screens eats into time for healthy activities, creating a more sedentary, solitary, unhealthy lifestyle.

The recommended limit on screen time? Two hours a day or less for recreational use. (As someone who spends at least eight hours working in front of a screen each day, even this seems excessive to me.)

How can you get involved in Turnoff Week? By offering healthy activities as alternatives to staring at the boob tube. You certainly are already doing this, but you can further your efforts by letting people know about Turnoff Week, offering special activities, informing them about the detriments of too much TV, and letting them know that they should not revert to former habits after the week is up.

And in fact, the campaign that promotes Turnoff Week (www.screentime.org) says that 90 percent of participants surveyed reported that they reduced their screen time for the long term as a result of their participation.

Still looking for reasons to celebrate in April? Here's a few more to spark your imagination:

  • April is National Poetry Month in the United States, so you could have a Poetry Slam, encouraging local aspiring poets to read their works.
  • It's also Jazz Appreciation Month. Use that as inspiration to bring a "concert in the park" series to your community.
  • The infamous Tax Day falls on April 15 in the United States. Use this as inspiration to offer a little financial educational programming to patrons at your community center, YMCA or other community-serving facility. These days, budget advice is welcome as people look to tighten their belts and ride out the recession.
  • World Health Day 2009, which falls on April 7, this year emphasizes ensuring that medical facilities are ready for an emergency. You can take the cue and ensure that your facility is ready for emergencies, too.
  • Arbor Day, an observance that encourages tree planting and care that has been celebrated since 1872, falls on April 24 this year. Some suggestions for celebrating from the Arbor Day Foundation: organize a beautification project; sponsor a children's pageant or play; have an Arbor Day concert of songs about trees or tree names in their titles; conduct a tree search, asking people to find large, unusual or historic trees in the community, and publishing a map or holding a walk to showcase them; host a tree identification hike; dedicate a forest, a tree or a flower bed in a park; insert your own brilliant idea here!

Happy April!

Emily Tipping
Editorial Director
Recreation Management


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