Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In the Arboretum

Last year's National Dialogue on Children and Nature included participants from the University of Wisconsin's Arboretum. This incredible place is a legacy of the great ecologist Aldo Leopold, and they have a new program dedicated to connecting kids with nature. Learn about the Earth Partnership for Schools.
Check it out.

3 Rs in Canada

Here's an article from last spring on work in Canada to establish outdoor activity as an integral part of daily school routine.

"You can see the benefits when kids have a chance to run and play," she said. "You need to have that balance of healthy bodies and healthy minds. And the kids know what it's all about and understand they are improving their health this way.

"With any luck, this will become part of how they manage their lives."

My daughter's former school has kids outside running almost every day as a normal part of the daily routine. It is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eco America Post

Rich Louv has a new post on the EcoAmerica blog.

Two years after the first publication of Last Child in the Woods, the issue is garnering more media attention than ever. We now have a movement, and again, much credit should go to those who have worked for years to make something like this happen. As the movement continues to grow, so too will public consciousness — and action. The Children & Nature Network has identified and networked over 35 urban regions in the United States and Canada that have launched or are planning to launch campaigns, which some of them call Leave No Child Inside, or variations on that phrase.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Camping in Comfort

We went up to Shenandoah NP the other weekend for a day trip. It was beautiful, with clear blue skies and crisp air. The best weather to camp in the mid Atlantic. All of the campsite were full, which was a good sign.

To get folks primed for camping out in a National Park, or anywhere, see this link to the National Parks Traveler site.

Camping in comfort! Who wouldn't want to? Here, I thought, was a book made for me, one that would provide the hints necessary to have an even more comfortable experience in the great outdoors than what I had grown accustomed to the past four decades.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Natural England

As a follow up to yesterday's post, here's a link to Natural England, which held a conference in the UK last summer to discuss the issue of the outdoors and the connections to public health.

"Dr Bird’s research for ‘Natural Thinking’ found that:

* People’s stress levels fell within minutes of contact with nature.
* Hospital patients with views of nature needed fewer painkillers following operations.
* Elderly people with easy access to nature are much happier with their quality of life.
* Nature aids the part of the brain that controls irritability, helping to reduce violent behaviour.
* Playing in a natural environment improved children’s concentration, self-discipline and their social and mental development, as well as reducing the symptoms of conditions like attention deficit disorder (ADHD)."

We tried to find a copy of the report, no luck yet...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nation of Wimps

Someone recently told me about this article in the UK Daily Mail.

"It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home."

Think about your family history, are there parallels to the map shown? I suspect so. We do let our teenage daughter run a mile of two away from our rural home, but it's not easy to let her go...

Friday, October 26, 2007

FWS News

Check out the excellent new issue of FWS News, themed this time on Children and Nature.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Funhogs Yvon Chouinard and Tom Brokaw, speak at Google Zeitgeist about the digital world and the non-use of it.

Note: This is a YouTube video, so it is blocked by some networks, sorry.

Gen Q.

Andrew Sullivan recently pointed out a response to an oped piece in the NY Times earlier this month by Tom Friedman. In that essay, Friedman announces a new demographic--Generation Q, that quietly sits at home online and says very little about the big issues facing the country. The response, in the American Prospect is written by a twenty-something teacher in Brooklyn.

This is a bit off topic, but I think serves as good foundational info about the generational and cultural challenges we all face in tackling the various issues of the day, including connecting kids with nature.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

View from India

"One American professor of environmental studies was quoted as saying “No society that loved its children would create places like the typical suburb or shopping mall” because they result in an “increasingly dysfunctional society absorbed with all things related to economics, growth and the self”. Malls are seriously not good for children thus they are not beneficial for the future of our society. Yet in Bombay they are popping up like worms after a light rain fall on a beautiful green field. If only the birds would come and squeeze the malls out of this city like the worms!"

A Children and Nature essay from India.

More on Abstraction

Monday's SF Gate article is getting around on the blogs.

Yosemite may be nice and all, but Tommy Nguyen of San Francisco would much prefer spending his day in front of a new video game or strolling around the mall with his buddies.

See here, and here.

The article has hit a chord with SF Gate readers. Read their comments here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Protect Them

Another good C&N article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The wussification of American children is a relatively recent phenomenon, but a very real one. We pamper our kids, over-schedule them, overemphasize fairness in competition (the score ends in a tie ... again!) and keep them indoors too much, to the point that we're doing them a huge disservice. Kids aren't learning how to get hurt, lose, fend for themselves, find their balance and discover minor dangers on their own - all important parts of growing up.

"Parents and children must not be frightened about venturing outside," he told the London Times in a June article. "When children spend time in the great outdoors, getting muddy, getting wet, getting stung by nettles, they learn important lessons - what hurts, what is slippery, what you can trip over or fall from. We need to try to break down the perceived safety barriers to playing outside."

Certainly television had a lot to do with this situation. Health and safety stories, along with an opportunistic serial murder story is the local network affiliate's red meat for their dinner time news shows. Maybe the changing trends of what and how we watch TV will help loosen us up as a culture.

Nature as an Abstraction

This meme needs to be repeated over and over...

"Nature is increasingly an abstraction you watch on a nature channel," said Richard Louv, the author of the book "Last Child in the Woods," an account of how children are slowly disconnecting from the natural world. "That abstract relationship with nature is replacing the kinship with nature that America grew up with."

Read article here.

There's more to being "green" than recycling and watching Animal Planet (no dig intended on either activity, except that they are poor replacements for getting outdoors.)

Connection to nature should be integral to any definition of "green".

Monday, October 22, 2007

Backyard Camping

A great essay in yesterday's Washington Post:

It's unlikely that ours was the first tent pitched here. The hill where our neighborhood sits was once an encampment for Civil War soldiers who rested and spied on the enemy. Their artifacts, entombed in hard Virginia clay, still turn up if you dig deep enough. On this night, we saw the blinking signals of the Washington Monument and a carpet of city lights through the trees. I tried to imagine what they must have seen, framed by pure, brilliant starlight. A black squirrel, a descendant of Canadian immigrants, scolded us from its perch.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

NH Extra

The Old Man before the "Fall"

NH News:

Rich Louv will be on NH Public Radio's The Exchange, Monday October 22 at 9:00 A.M.

Click here to listen.

Plus, check out the NH Children in Nature Site.

Greening Baby?

The Washington Post has an article today describing people with the best intentions greening the way they live. But as with previous reports, while they rightfully tout the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle; they leave out the need to unplug and get the kids outside.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sidetracked on Water

Indulge me. We'll all continue to need water in the future. We've had a vicious drought here in VA this spring and summer. There's a good article in the New York Times on what's happening with water out west. Our kids will either solve this problem, or live with it...

Friday, October 19, 2007


Fall is a great time to get out. Here's a guide to where some of the best foliage is (sorry, NYT registration required).

Saw this blog post that has a good activity for craft-minded kids and parents who want to do something outdoors in the fall, worth a look.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Get To Know

The artist Robert Bateman has a website that focuses on a program called Get to Know. Bateman encourages young artists to get outside, and the contest winners are impressive. The activities described on the site are from last spring and summer, but it is worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prescribe It

Teton Science Schools is a fantastic institution located in Jackson Hole and they have helped connect kids with nature for years. TSS Executive Director Jack Shea is a member of the Conservation Fund's National Forum on Children and Nature.

There's a good article up today regarding a TSS proposal to connect kids and nature.
“Doctors are writing prescriptions to parents to have their kids spend time outside,” said Jack Shea of the Teton Science School, “…a really weird sounding idea but symptomatic of what we’re facing today.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Blog Action Post

Found this post from yesterday, another from Blog Action Day.

Butterflies figured prominently throughout growing up. I remember having a butterfly net with me for most of the summers through junior high school. Even in high school, I was keeping live butterflies, mostly smaller species like blues, alive for weeks in small cages, feeding them sugar water. I remember taking a caged American Copper butterfly with us when we went apple picking in southern New Hampshire and marveling at still having the live butterfly in my possession when it snowed that afternoon. How could I have known then that my future career was being played out that day?

I don't know blogger Doug Taron of Chicago, but his experiences parallel mine in several ways. While I didn't collect butterflies, my parents did everything they could to get us outside, camping, skiing, traveling, and exploring. They took us to the first Earth Day in New York City, where I chipped my tooth (still chipped). We visited every state but Alaska. It made a difference for me, and I only wish I could do as well as they did in getting kids outside.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Changing Perceptions of the Environment

I recently was thinking about when I first thought there was a real problem with the changing perceptions our society has with our natural environment. Lots of academic materials have been written on this, but I remember a certain series of incidents that happened a few years back that first drove the issue home to me.

Bear with me as I set up the story:

A few years ago, Mark, Devon and I headed up to one of my favorite places in the world, Gray Knob, which I have written about in the past. It was Washington's Birthday weekend, a traditional time for all us old Knobbers to rendezvous.

As it was winter, we decided to hike Lowe's Path, which was always packed and easy going, even with deep snow. I've hiked up Lowe's probably more than 100 times over the years, and know every turn and rock, so much so that we have many landmarks named on the path. There were three of us on this trip, and we moved well across the lower flats and up the first hill, ending up at the Club House Turn after about 45 minutes. Clubhouse is the traditional first stop for water and a breather before starting up towards the Log Cabin. As we stood there, I should have know that something was up when this group of pilgrims appeared, shuffling up the path in snowshoes, and burdened with giant packs, snow flukes, the whole bit.

The leader of the group, a tall bald guy with brand new Koflach plastic boots a huge pack and a quiver of snow stakes with bright orange ribbon eyed us with some disgust and said:

"Bootin" it huh?"

I had never, in the nearly twenty years of hiking Lowe's in the winter, ever worn snowshoes, and here was this dummy challenging us. Rather than starting something, we moved over and let them pass, only to catch up with them on the final stairs below the Log Cabin as they struggled up the steep stairs, snowshoes scraping on the wooden treads.

I tell this part of the story to comment on the state of outdoor marketing. The outdoor business had been very successful in transforming snowshoeing from a utilitarian task--the snow is too deep to walk over so you use these cool tools called snowshoes, to a sport that people do, regardless of the need to do it.

The rest of the hike up above the Log Cabin, a sustained and steep walk up 1,100 feet, was uneventful. Our snowshoeing friends headed out the Randolph Path towards the Perch as we continued up.

On arrival at the Knob, the place was full, so we headed over to Crag Camp, which had a few folks, but was quiet enough. There was a good six feet of snow on the ground, and it was shaping up to be a clear bright night with a full moon. It was going to be the kind of night that would have us running around above tree line with no lights, the bright moonlight casting shadows on the fresh snow. And that's what we did. By six o'clock the moon was rising and we headed up the Spur Trail to check things out. It was a remarkable hike, and Devon, who had never been up there before, was spellbound. After a few hours of playing in the snow, Mark and I left Devon at Knight's Castle and headed back down and walked onto the porch at Crag. There were several folks on the porch standing and talking about some financial stuff. We nodded and stood there looking at the headwall of King Ravine shimmering in the moonlight.

Then a movement caught my eye, and a Pine Martin scampered out onto the snow in front of us. There must have been a mouse under the snow he was after, and his hunger must have pushed him to show himself. Despite having lived up here for many, many, months over the past couple decades; I had never seen a Pine Martin. It was a real thrill. Funny thing was, the two thirty-somethings next to us kept talking about the stock market. I said to them:

"You guys ever see a Pine Martin? If not, it's standing right there." I pointed. The Pine Martin continued to circle around and dig about in the snow.

They eyed me angrily for interrupting them and went back to their talk, Cisco was up and so and so's IPO could become reality. Who gives a damn about a Pine Martin was the attitude, I guess. It really was astonishing.

The next morning, there they were, dressed in the best technical clothing, and boots, throwing on their packs to hike up the ridge. There was boasting and macho talk. They were going to challenge the mountain. During a rare full moon winter night with minimal wind, they had stood around talking about money instead of hiking around and experiencing this rare environment under the rarest of conditions, and now they were heading up to fight the mountain.

That incident was something of an epiphany for me. Here were people who had hiked up three miles and three thousand feet for completely different motives than my friends and I. They had spent lots of money buying the best gear, but were completely unaware of the natural surroundings, and seemed more interested in the bragging rights that came with the hike than anything else. The sighting of a rare critter had zero impact except for an angry glare. I was discouraged to think that this was the face of the future, where athletic achievement was the motive for climbing and the environment was but a second thought. What would the future state of the environment be with guys like this?

Bob Pyle's term extinction of experience rang loud and clear to me as I walked down Mt. Adams the next day, worried for the future of this place, and wild places everywhere. The people we had encountered up at the Knob were there for completely different reasons than we were.

I guess it's not fair to pick on these guys too much, but between them and the snowshoe guys, but they became poster boys for the new outlook on nature, an outlook down a dead end street. At least they took the time to hike up, unlike the millions hiking the shopping malls every day. Could they not understand that we lived on that mountain because we loved the place and celebrated everyday we could exist in the wild?

Rich Louv's book, which I subsequently read a few years later, only reinforced the feelings I had on the hike down. A disconnect was growing, and by the age of those we had encountered, it had been cooking for some time.

My intent with this rather skeletal piece, is to tell you when I first became aware of the issue of our disconnect with nature. Where we're at now is a hopeful place, with a movement building and awareness of the issue rapidly spreading. I should go back up to the Knob this February with an eye to this issue, and see if anything yet has changed. We can have hope that on that next trip, when a Pine Martin jumps out in the snow, two new guys, decked out in their fancy gear will stop their conversation and try to get a better look into the eyes of the wild. And I still won't use snowshoes on Lowe's Path.

This is my Blog Action Day Environment Post.

Child's Play

This short article ends in a bit of a proprietary way, but the writer makes some great observations and points.

Too often these days we are afraid to allow our children to play outside. There are so many dangers waiting around every corner. Make play groups, get a bunch of kids together and start games with them. Just be close by to make sure no injuries occur. I know as a working parent it is very hard to make sure your kids get out side daily. If neighbors could come together and each take one day a week to encourage the children in your neighborhood to play together. Each parent taking turns on the different days of the week, before long you will have very busy kids, not to mention free time for the separate parents, whose turn it is not.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Role Model in CO

Great column.

A connection with nature and the outdoors is in our genes, and replacing that connection with gadgets such as video games, iPods and cell phones seems to be hurting us more than we think.

That's disturbing enough, but I worry more about the chances that Jayden may one day have to be put on Ritalin.

The outdoors, after all, shaped my life.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Leave No Child Inside

Chicago Wilderness, a great conservation partnership in Chicago, is focusing on a children and nature initiative, Leave No Child Inside.

It’s time to give our kids a break from the TV and the computer and get them back outside! Chicago Wilderness and its more than 200 members invite you to Leave No Child Inside. Together, we can foster a generation of children that care enough for nature to protect it.

Here's a good write up on what they're doing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dirty Hands, Healthy Plants

More schools and day care centers are adding hands on gardening to their programs. Here where I work, our day care center kids planted and nurtured an extraordinary garden. We've also written about the good work being done at the Hill School in Virginia.

Down in Florida, a place called The Village School has a program to get kids involved in gardening, another good model for schools across the country.

“Kids today aren’t in touch with the cycle of nature,” she said. “They don’t know how food is grown. Studies have shown that kids who grow their own vegetables are more likely to eat vegetables.”

Brown said that with childhood obesity becoming more and more prevalent in society, children aren’t living as well as they used to.

About 19 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The dream is that by doing this, we are going to reach more families and get the children healthier, more in tune with the environment and teach them to respect nature,” Brown said."

More here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The Teddy Project is not a program that gets kids out on the land directly, but it is an exciting example of engaging college kids in the history of conservation, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and conservation issues today.

Students from the Art Institutes, a system of 31 art schools across the country, work with a National Wildlife Refuge in their area to create a cartoon starring Teddy Roosevelt and Puddles the blue goose. The purpose is to engage kids in the wonders of the Refuge system and encourage them to get out and discover them. Thus far there have been a couple dozen short films made. You can see the newest Teddy Project cartoons at the American Conservation Film Festival in Shepherdstown WV, November 2-4.

The animation is done in different ways, from old fashioned frame by frame to the latest in digital 3D technology.

Check it out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More Kids in the Woods

The US Forest Service's More Kids in the Woods Program provides grant money to get kids out into nature. The AP has a story out today about the Forest Service Chief visiting a school in Harlem to discuss the benefits of nature with the kids.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Talking Points

Here's a great list of talking points on the benefits of getting kids "outside, unplugged, and dirty", from a website that focuses on Gen Y.

Ypulse got these cites from the fantastic Annotated Bibliographies of Research and Studies, Volumes 1 and 2 (2007) at the Children and Nature Network.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Another Story From Texas

Read this essay.

To today's kids who are addicted to video games, death is a thrust of a sword or a barrage of machine gun fire, accompanied by appropriately dangerous sound effects.
Compare that violent but two-dimensional, sterile death to watching a hawk swoop down to snatch a field mouse in his claws, glide to a safe place and crunch the squealing mouse, devouring it bit by bit.

Grandparents are an excellent resource for getting kids outdoors.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


We have written some about the Farm Based Education group out of New England, and now a new term, Agritourism, is coming from farms that open their doors to the public down in Arkansas.

WHY AGRITOURISM ? “The simplest definition of agritourism is anything that brings the buyer to the property,” said Miles Phillips, who oversees nature tourism in Texas. Nature tourism includes not only agritourism but also hunting, fishing and adventure tourism, he said. “There’s a lot of activity in the whole sector,” Phillips said, spurred in part by Richard Louv’s 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv wrote that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

Couple of years ago we were in Vermont in the late summer, and there was a sunflower field that had been cut into a maze. My ten year old daughter and her cousins had a blast getting lost in that five acre field.

Pumpkin Hollow
in Arkansas is a similar experience. Also, the Vermont Farm Association has a great website that points to many farms and their events.

Farms and kids are a winning combination.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

REI and Children and Nature

Sally Jewell, the Chief of REI and a member of the National Forum spoke recently in Missoula, Montana.

American children spend much more time in front of a screen of some sort -- watching TV, surfing the internet or playing video games -- than they spend outside.

"That's our competition. That's what we're up against," said Sally Jewell, president and chief executive officer of REI. She was at the University of Montana on Monday to talk about sustainable business at the Harold and Priscilla Gilkey Lecture Series.

The Outdoor Industry has a key role in reconnecting kids to nature, and kudos to REI for taking a leadership role.


Florida is not the place I think of when I think of taking a hike. However, a new program, Trek Ten Trails, will bring kids out on hikes to engage them in nature.

Organizers hope to lure children - and their parents - outside in part by introducing them to geocaching, a high-tech form of treasure hunting. Caches will be hidden along each of the hiking routes, and participants will receive "passport journals" in which to document their activities.

Looks like a good combination of hiking and new technology.

More info here.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Planting Trees

The Arbor Day Foundation and Enterprise Rent a Car have quite an initiative going that could really engage kids, and get them outdoors.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Rich Louv is getting some press on his appearance the other day at the Shangri-La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.

See stories here, here, and here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Playing outdoors

I'm not a big fan of paintball, but, this blog post does provide some encouraging words about the writer's son and his love of playing outdoors, even if it's to play paintball.

I've seen our son do wonderful things with paintball. As he maneuvers with experienced veterans in a battalion, he learns strategy and teamwork. He's outside in the fresh air. He's focused, because even a moment of daydreaming can get you painted. He can look to additional role models: real men in camo, not just a geeky guy in a bow tie.

I guess to be honest, when I was ten and spending a lot of my time in the woods, brooks, and hills around my house, my friends and I would have played paintball in a second if it were offered to us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

NLI 2007

Robin Moore and Nilda Cosco at NC State are leading thinkers in designing natural places for children. Each year their Natural Learning Initiative runs its Design Institute. This year it was held at NCTC. Here's a great summary of the doings at that event, at the NLI website site.

This year the Design Institute was hosted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia, from August 9-11, 2007. The theme this year was "Design for Children IN Nature". For two and a half days, participants learned:

* Why is community design for children and families important?
* What can be done through design to address the lack of contact with nature?
* How can outdoor environments for children and families be better designed?

During the conference participants also experienced an outdoor activity with children where they rediscovered their inner child and learned how to create a magical and imaginative outdoor environment.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I used to walk to school a lot. It was only a mile or so, not a bad walk. I also would also use my thumb to get a ride when I could, especially when I was late. But that as back at the end of the hitchhiking era, which went away in the late 80's, probably a result of the growth of media and the 24 hour cable news channel, which was always hungry for a good abduction story. Of course, my mother never approved of this style of travel.

Walking is just not a common way for kids to get around today. I see parents waiting for the bus with their kids, and basically nobody walking to schools that I pass on my daily drive to work. Certainly there are a lot of reasons for this, many of which we've talked about here. Seems like just getting kids walking again, when and where possible, would be a good thing.

A recent oped piece in the Texas media suggests that getting more kids walking to school again would be a good thing.

It's time we burst kids' bubble. Their insular, climate-controlled cocoons (house, car, school) could use some fresh air. Doing their daily commute by foot would promote both healthier air and healthier bodies. It would help counter the nature-deficit disorder from which many kids are said to suffer. In short, it's time for students to take to the streets for a worthy cause.

And Coverage in Michigan

The Grand rapids press covers Rich Louv's Children and Nature Network.

"It's very sad when you see children at the Outdoor Discovery Center who are afraid to walk down a path through trees, or who get stressed and start crying because they are not used to being outside," ODC Executive Director Travis Williams said.