Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Effects of Nature

As a kid I lived outside. I could orient myself and tell time by the sun. My favorite place to be was up in a tree. I felt safe, secure and happy in a tree. The higher the better as I could see more of our world from the perch in my back yard. I am extremely fortunate in the fact that I was born into a family that frequently appreciated the outdoors. We camped at state parks, hiked trails at nature centers and explored different environments on a regular basis. I know I am a richer person because of it.
On my date with my Dad last night we went to see a lecture by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. I am so glad we went.
Our nation is in desperate need of reconnecting with nature. Obesity is on the rise(even with organized sports) more kids than ever are on antidepressants and there is an alarming amount of kids that have been diagnosed with ADHD. I am talking about our children here. We live in a generation that would rather watch a program on TV about nature rather than be in nature experiencing it for themselves. We live in a generation that believes they know more than those who came before, yet they do not know true real life experiences. We are loosing our kids to technology and I think unless some very intentional things happen, nature will be lost to this generation and the ones that follow.
During the lecture the phrase 'in our schools' kept surfacing and research that had shown the effect on our kids when they encountered nature. . There have been studies that show kids who learn by natural light perform better than those who use artificial light. There have been studies that show kids who had one week of outdoor nature experiences scored better on tests. Those who walked in parks; were more relaxed, better focused and performed better on tests. Nature has had huge calming affect on those with ADHD and some studies show it should be included in ADHD therapy. To sum up the research, Kids are happier, healthier and smarter when they experience nature.
The phrase 'in our schools' stuck out to me for many reasons.
1. The schools are under restrictions and pressure. They often do not get the opportunity to get their kids truly outdoors as field trips require planning and funding. Their schedules are restricted to make more time prepping for standardized testing, meaning shorter recesses.
2. I see the effects in my nieces and nephews who are in the school.
3. I am not nor our my kids in the public school. So everything mentioned on the school front I automatically process through the mentality of how can this information be altered to benefit my homeschool.

So how can I take what was discussed and apply it to our home school? I believe I need to get back to nature. I no longer want to be content reading about it in a book. I want to go, explore and see if we can see it live. I want to include at least one half day a week of nature study. Going to different parks; watching the leaves change color and fall to the ground. Hiking trails. Getting knee deep in a pond with a skimming net. Tracking animals. Laying out under the stars. Seeking out different habitats and ecosystems. I want my kids to know how to fish. I want my kids to know how to hunt. I want them to know how to survive in the wild. And I truly believe to do this it will have to be intentional.

Yesterday before the lecture I was having a discussion with my son, age 7. He was asking where I was going to go with my dad. I told him about the author, the book and the authors views. We talked about our families take on TV, computer, books, education, exercise and nature. Then we discussed how other families do not get outside, that their kids are content to watch TV all day. It was about this point that he exclaimed "cool." I mean really doesn't it sound great to watch TV all day. So being ever wise, he proposed a social experiment. He would stay in his room for a week, not talk to anyone, nor go outside or interact with anything living. We talked about what variables would be part of "the experiment." Would my fish stay in my room? No, that would be considered nature. Oh and we should probably cover the window so you can't see outside. And your books, those should probably go to. And if we wanted to make this truly a technology verses nature experiment we should get rid of your toys for the week too. Just you, the TV and video games. Food would be delivered to your room and you could come out only to go to the bathroom.
Sound like a good plan....not to me! But he was all over it. He was ready to start that moment. But rather than a week he quickly decided that a day would be good. Somewhere in his brain he was already counting the cost and isolation for an extended period of time did not sound so pleasent. But a day off of school with the TV, this he thinks he could handle. All in the name of a social experiment.
We called dad for approval and it got pushed to the needs further discussion plate. After further discussion we stil don't know if we are going to let him try it. On one hand what damage could be done in 24 hours? What could be learned? Is it worth it?
Personally, I think he would happily kiss us good-bye. Shut the door and escape into TV oblivion. For about 2-3 hours, then I think he would venture out, just to see what we were doing. Or he would convince his siter to join him. I think he would grasp the concepts of isolation and the effects it has on a person. I think he may also try to play up the fun that video games and TV can offer. I think he would experience lonliness. I think he would want to be outside, especially if he could here others playing outside. I think the experiment has merit but can we achieve the same observations without having to experience it? What do you think?

There is definitely an interesting current and discussion of all things nature in our home this week. One I am glad to be reminded of. I homeschool for a reason. I am not stuck to a desk or a set format for the education of my children. Sometimes I need to be reminded that seat work is not were true education happens.

As Louv said, "Kids in nature are happier, healthier and smarter." Isn't that what every parent wants for our kids? If you do, get your kids outside today. A sense of wonder awaits them.

Oh and one last thing, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU READ LOUV'S BOOK. Last Child in the Woods.

1 comment:

Erin Muller said...

And once again, I feel the tug on my heart...to have my children home with me, and not sitting under florescent lights day in and day out. Let the prayers begin. Erin