August 20th, 2012

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Why: Kids in the Woods

There’s practically a sub-sub genre of books about children not getting enough time in the woods or nature. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and The Geography of Childhood come to mind immediately, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more.

The Geography of Childhood is the one I’ve read. At first, I had a resistance to it, as it extolled the wonders of a childhood spent in the desert, poking under every rock and looking at every cactus blossom. My childhood was spent in Chicago, and my roaming involved taking the el downtown. But the common thread between these two experiences is the unsupervised free roaming. That’s what kids today lack, whether it’s in nature or not.

The importance of free roaming is not just that it helps shape the brain for independent experience and analysis, but that it establishes a home range, a place for children to experience as their own.

I think more important than whether this roaming have an approved percentage of “natural” is that it be close to home. If you bundle the kids into the car and take them to the mountains, you’re just reinforcing the idea that nature is there and good, the urban/suburban life is here and bad.

With this home range established, they can more easily connect their actions to their immediate surroundings. And from this home range, they can extend their actions, and the effects of those actions, to the larger world.

In the specific case of North Beach Park, cleaning the park will help clean the water running through it, which will lead to an incrementally cleaner Puget Sound. From that connection, they can make larger connections.

Without this connection, however, ecological education is a bombardment of futility. Being presented with doom’n'gloom scenarios involving remote (to us) parts of the world doesn’t help build a sense that we can do something.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.