I am reposting an article from March 2009. Last night in the dojo, the parents were talking about how things were when they grew up. They spoke of going outside and playing until dark. They rode their bikes, played games, invented games and learned how to interact with each other.
The parents all mentioned how things are different for their children.
My daughter and I volunteered at the local Conservancy sponsored book signing and lecture with Richard Louv. Richard Louv is the recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal and author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv claims that children are spending less time outdoors in a natural setting. This is the result of structured activity, over scheduling and being plugged in. Children are losing their imaginations due to the lack of unstructured play.
In Louv's lecture, he discussed the differences between children who play in a natural environment to those who play on a flat (concrete, black top) environment. He noted that the leaders that emerge from these play situations are different. The leaders on the flat environment are usually the physically strongest. The leaders in the natural environment tend to be the smartest. The group playing on the flat surface tend to be involved in structured games. The children playing in the natural environment need to make up their own games using their imagination. He was quick to point out that this is not urban versus rural.
Another interesting point Louv made in his lecture was that people have a special place. He told a story about when he was a child. There was a corn field near his home where he made an underground fort. This field/fort was his special place and even though he did not legally own the land...he felt a sense of ownership to that place. He was forever connected to that place.
Hearing Louv talk about his special place reminded me of my father. My father was born in the coal regions of PA in 1930. His family was poor as most were during that time. Dad tells stories of what he used to do when he was a kid. He would talk about the nearby dairy farm, streams, woods and the coal yards. When I was little he took me to where he played when he was young. He had me walk along the same streams, woods, dairy farm and coal yard. As we walked, he would point out where things used to be and how things have changed. At the time, I was just going for a walk. Now, I realize he was showing me his special place.
I think about my daughter and hope that she feels a sense of awe and wonder about the world. I want her to feel connected to nature. I think she does. Often when I drive her home from school she comments on the roadside litter. She asks me how she can start a recycling program. She is the type of kid who captures a slug in the backyard and wants to keep it as a pet. Her science fair topic is on the effect of pollution in rivers and streams.
Louv's lecture gave me a lot to think about. I have his book and I can not wait to read it. Who can argue with his message...Go Outside and Play!
The photo of the tree was taken by my daughter as a submission in a back to nature photo contest. She did not win but her entry was part of the slide show presentation at the Richard Louv event.