In today's fast-paced, hyper-technical world, many children suffer from what Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods , calls "nature deficit disorder." Their exposure to nature is minimal and often comes from a visit to the neighborhood park or sports field. But a number of organizations are stepping up to provide children with more meaningful interactions with the natural world. In fact, this has been a goal since 1941 for Outward Bound.
Originally founded in Great Britain by Dr. Kurt Hahn, according to the organization's homepage, it presently operates more than 40 schools on six continents and has programs designed to serve people of all ages. These include youth-oriented wilderness adventures, aimed at connecting adolescents with nature. The adventures challenge participants' abilities in ways that foster personal development and responsibility, with activities that include backpacking, canoeing, canyoneering, desert backpacking, dogsledding, mountaineering, rafting, rock climbing, sailing, and kayaking.
Outward Bound has proven to be a model of development for other organizations operating on varying scales. Another program with similar reach is The Foundation for Global Community's Children and Nature Workshops, also an international effort. Part of Global Community's Hooked on Nature program, the workshops utilize a philosophy of "compassionate intelligence" that strives for the well-being of all life. They implement hands-on approaches, such as seed-planting and nature walks, and integrate these with educational and developmental goals.
On a local scale, the Children's Nature Institute, a no-cost program that serves Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in California, brings the issue of children and nature into the homes, communities, and classrooms of underserved and at-risk children. The program engages children, parents, and educators in hands-on experiences, providing transportation and guidance to local natural habitats. Like Outward Bound and The Children and Nature Workshops, Children's Nature Institute strives to integrate educational and developmental issues with its approach to the natural environment.
All three of these programs work to mediate the recent trend that has distanced our children from the natural world. As we teach our children to "reduce, reuse, recycle," we need to remember to teach them to value the "pay-off" for their efforts. If we can show them the serenity of the pine forest as the prize that lies beyond those abstract principles, we can instill in them the sense of custodial responsibility necessary to preserve our resources into future generations.
Copyright 2006© Linda Stanley
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Monday, 28-Aug-2006 14:45:21 EDT