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Discuss: A Walk in the Woods

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1 Jef Schultz on Feb 21, 2009

Why was that fifth grade girl the only “poet,” described as such in class?  Where I teach in rural Mendocino County, all of my kids are poets and writers and musical artists and sports heroes. Yes, I have a few video junkies, but get them outside, on a hike to the ocean or park, or a camp out, and they open up into wonder-filled humans with questions and insights galore about their natural surroundings . . . all good teaching materials.
  I remember a Pomo student I had once, who in the middle of the full gallop of an intense soccer game, yelled at me mid-stride and said, “did you hear that?” A red-tailed hawk had just flown overhead, squawking, and he was the only kid at that moment aware enough and with the presence of a natural mind to have caught that event. You see, there is such a thing as multiple intelligences, Howard Gardner and all that, and they include awareness of nature wisdom at every level.
  For kids to develop the many skills they need,  mere exposure to nature is not enough.  Immersion in nature, in-depth study of nature, and a revolution from the heart of nature (Bioneers-style) is a moral and ethical imperative for our future.     
  Otherwise, the Four R’s will never take hold: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Restore.  And it’s especially the “restore” part that we don’t have nearly as much time as we may need to successfully turn things around.

2 Mike Link on Feb 21, 2009

After 37 years in environmental education I am concerned.  I know that students have been impacted and that environmental education was a strong outcome of earth day. 

I have been running an environmental education center, teaching in colleges and watching alumni do wonderful things. 

We have wonderful partner schools and excellent materials and support, yet - if you asked me 30 years ago what the results of all our education efforts would be, I would have expected more.

I would have thought those who had been raised in schools with environmental education would have been teaching their children what they had learned.  That the parks would be flowing with hikers and explorers, not just travelers looking for a place to park their RV’s overnight.

But we have seen the statistics of under appreciated parks, of less time outside - all the things that inspired your books.

Teachers are doing some wonderful things with the outdoors and we have many students waxing poetic, just like we did in the 70s. 80s, 90s, but what happens to that wonderful inspiration?

How do we compete with the pressures of the market place?  How do we go beyond the - I wish I had the time to take my kids out, the reflection that there are so many issues that distract from the basis of our existence - the environment.

When I start a talk I always excuse people who might not want to waste there time by giving them a little test - Two questions.  If you can answer no to either, I do not have anything to share.  Do you breathe air?  Do you drink water?  If you answer yes, the environment is your most important issue.

But even when we do pass our children through the care and inspiration of outdoor experiences and environmental education in to a system that discounts both in favor of higher economic returns.

We are all challenged to encourage the values that accompany the knowledge and experience.

I salute all the teachers who are trying and working hard, the people who support this effort and understand that education is our most important tool for investing in the future of the planet.

Keep challenging us.

3 Frank Gallagher on Feb 21, 2009

I would like to second some of Jeff’s comments.  We tend to focus on the negative and offer little in the way of constructive critique. Why is it that the article does not hail the thousands of teachers that are trained in environmental education programs such as Project Learning Tree every year? In addition, while author laments the many students who are sequestered within four walls, why does he not also celebrate the schools such as Oil City Oil City Elementary Magnet School in Louisiana, where environmental education, both within and around the school has lead to greatly improved scholastic achievement.  And finally, why not praise the many initiatives such as the Environmental Sabbath that attempt to develop the moral foundation required for the resolution of issues of sustainability.  Defining the problem is only half the job.

4 Cheryl Charles on Feb 23, 2009

This is a comment in response to the question about why Richard Louv did not include examples of great resources in his most recent article in Orion.  This particular article of Rich’s was an exploration of the moral questions around the changes in childhood for most young people today.  While there are a host of good programs and resources out there, despite their availability and the fact that some children are reached through such efforts, the trend over the past thirty years –escalated in the past ten years—is one in which children typically do not have direct experiences in nature as a part of their everyday lives. In many other of his articles and in great detail in his seventh book, Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Rich does offer such examples and a host of resources.  We do as well on the Web site of the Children & Nature Network, http://www.childrenandnature.org, the non-profit I co-founded with Rich and others in order to build a movement to reconnect children and nature.  Join us, and help us fill out the map with great resources, programs, events and more!

5 Rachel on Feb 24, 2009

The example doesn’t seem to apply. The “poet” enjoyed nature but the other kids said little about it not because they were denied it, or their “rights” violated,but because they enjoyed other things: video games, organized sports. Not because there were no play spaces or that they were destroyed. So the question becomes not whether or no they have some kind of moral right to nature, since we all know time spent in free-play and nature is beneficial, but how to actually make that happen? What can the author show for that?

When I visit my kids’ school and ask abbout their experiences in the natural world, or better yet, actually lead them on a nature walk, plenty of of kids, at least 3/4, say they enjoy the natural world and would readily choose it over playing inddors.

“To reverse the trends that disconnect children from nature, actions must be grounded in science, but also rooted in deeper earth.” What does that even mean? Rooted in deeper earth? Earth is deeper than science? The author wanted to sound deep?

“We can truly care for nature and ourselves . . . only if we love ourselves as part of nature.”

Another profundity: just love yourself. It’s natural. 

Much preferred the approach laid out by Brian Doyle in his review of A Natural Sense of Wonder in Orion’s last issue.

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/review/4269/

6 Katie Gosses on Feb 26, 2009

Any little amount would do so much good… You could go to your local elementary school and suggest that once a week the teachers take their students to a hiking path, a pond, or   a park. Even volunteer your time to act as a guide. Even if they can only get outside for a couple hours a week it would do a world of good. Let them run around, explore, learn. The goal would be to arouse their own curiosity, not forcing them to listen to you babble on about what around them. Let them see it.

7 Dani on Mar 03, 2009

Hi there. I am currently attempting to write an essay about the importance of exposure to nature and its link to nurturing creativity. I wondered whether anyone had come across articles/books about this link? Obviously, exposure to nature, or to some extent simply being out of doors can stimulate creativity. But what kind of creativity are we talking about? I feel the notion of sustainable creativity may here become key…
Also, can anyone help out with the statistics of how much children are actually getting out of doors, perhaps using parks etc. these days?

CHEERS!

8 thaye on Mar 04, 2009

I think children understands nature better than any grown adult; for this reason, they are more phyically and mentally adapted to the outdoor.  How many of them when asked, “Do you want to go to the park or play outside?”  Of course, they will say “yes” over playing video games if their parents allow them to.  What is the bond between kid/nature?  As an adult and referring to Louv’s writing, we have no right to take away what belong to the children; their freedom to explore the natural.  We need to give each of them the short opportunity (privilege and right) before they lose that connection and be driven into society’s demand.  I am sure, all of us once had that spiritual bonding with nature.

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