The United States celebrated the first Earth Day On April 22, 1970. It was a need celebration to bring to light how pollution was killing this world. Today, Earth Day is no longer celebrated nationally but is celebrated around the globe.
The earth is in better shape than those early days yet, there is a staggering divide between children and the outdoors. Richard Louv, child advocacy expert, directly blames the lack of nature in the lives on today’s wired generation. He calls this phenomenon nature-deficit order and he links it to some of the most alarming trends for our kids. Including rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
His recent book, Last Child in the Woods, has spurred a national dialogue among educators, health professionals, parents, developers and conservationists. It clearly show we and our youth need to spend time in nature.
Schools have tried to use nature in the class room for some time. At Holman School in NJ, Ms. Millar began an environmental project in the school’s courtyard. It has become quite an undertaking–even gaining state recognition. It contains several habitat areas, including a Bird Sanctuary, a Hummingbird/ Butterfly Garden, A Woodland Area with a pond, and a Meadow. My students currently maintain the Bird Sanctuary–filling seed and suet feeders, filling the birdbaths, building birdhouses, even supplying nesting materials! In addition, this spring they will be a major force in the clean up and replanting process. They always have energy and enthusiasm for anything to do with “their garden”.
Despite schools doing their best to get kids in nature, we as a nation have lost the ability to just send our kids out to play. Summer Camps are a great way to fill this void. A recent study finds that today’s parents overprotect their kids. Kids have stopped climbing trees, been told that they can’t play tag or hide-and-seek Not to mention THE STICK and how it will put out someone’s eye.
Can technology be the blame for the decline in outdoor play? Adrian Voce says “Children are not being allowed many of the freedoms that were taken for granted when we were children,” “They are not enjoying the opportunities to play outside that most people would have thought of as normal when they were growing up.”
According to the Guardian, “Voce argued that it was becoming a ‘social norm’ for younger children to be allowed out only when accompanied by an adult. ‘Logistically that is very difficult for parents to manage because of the time pressures on normal family life,’ he said. ‘If you don’t want your children to play out alone and you have not got the time to take them out then they will spend more time on the computer.’
Many play providers see the benefits to children of taking risks. “Risk-taking increases the resilience of children,” said one. “It helps them make judgments,” said another. We as parents want to play it safe and we need to rethink the benefit of adventure in a child’s life.
Examples of risky play that should be encouraged include fire-building, den-making, watersports and climbing trees. These are all activities that a Summer camp can provide. At camp children to get outside take risks and play, this while being supervised by responsible young adults.
Earth day has provided so much..but there is more we can learn from nature. This summer help your child regain their appreciation for nature by sending them to Camp. This is an opportunity that will be treasured the rest of your child’s life.
Written by Jeff Lorenz, Owner/Director of Swift Nature Camp