Spending Time with Nature

Now that spring has finally arrived in Central Indiana, I’m reclaiming my “morning moment” routine: before rushing off to work, I sit on my back porch for five minutes. I listen to the songbirds, watch nuthatches run upside down on the walnut trees and count squirrels. These few moments in my tiny corner of nature help me stay centered during the day.

As journalist Richard Louv pointed out in his 2008 best-seller Last Child in the Woods, spending time in nature is an essential human need and a rare occurrence for many of today’s children.

…Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment—but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading…

As a boy, I was unaware that my woods were ecologically connected with any other forests. Nobody in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my fields; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt paths. I wandered those woods even in my dreams. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening
to the wind and watching the clouds move.

This book explores the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change. It also describes the accumulating research that reveals the necessity of contact with nature for healthy child—and adult—development…

photo by Isado

Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature—in positive ways. Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies. As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.
– excerpted from Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Environmental Education Week April 11-17, 2010, gives educators and youth development professionals a springboard for helping children explore their natural world. A program of the National Environmental Education Foundation, the event website provides useful, fun ideas and activities for all ages.

You might even be able to get teenagers excited about Planet Connect’s Get Green video contest that challenges high school students to submit a one to two minute video showing how they’re reducing their carbon footprints. Entry deadline is May 2nd and prizes for winners include Apple computers and iPads.

Louv reminds us of nature’s wonderful calming effects, and we should remember our children learn from the behavior of the adults in their lives. “View nature as an antidote to stress,” Louv wrote. “All the health benefits that come to a child come to the adult who takes that child into nature. Children and parents feel better after spending time in the natural world—even if it’s in their own backyard.”

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