Let me introduce myself. My name is Matt, and I like nature. And kids. And getting kids out into nature.
A lot of children these days seem to suffer from what American non-fiction writer and journalist Richard Louv has called “nature deficit disorder,” a non-medical term which describes the disconnect that people – particularly children – have with the natural world, resulting in a number of problems.
- Reduced respect for their natural surroundings. In “Last Child in the Woods“, Louv writes: “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature…has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself.”
- Attention disorders and depression. A study by the University of Illinois has shown that spending time in nature reduces the symptoms of ADD in children. According to this study, “exposure to ordinary natural settings in the course of common after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.”
- Lower grades and less engagement in school. Louv states that “studies of students in California and nationwide show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of experiential education produce significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math.”
- Too much time with electronic devices. The average child aged 5 – 16 in the UK now spends an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995. But the most tech-addicted country in Europe? Spain. The Spanish spend, on average, 8 hours and 48 minutes a day on electronic devices – outside of work. The ANIBES study, carried out by the Spanish Nutrition Foundation, found that “49.3% [of children] during weekdays and 84% during weekends did not meet the recommendation of less than 2 hours of screen viewing per day.”
- A sedentary lifestyle. Kids simply aren’t getting enough exercise, and the ANIBES study concludes that “urgent strategies and intervention studies are needed to reduce sedentary behavior in young people.” Getting kids outside and moving has a whole range of important health benefits, and combining exercise with an increased knowledge of, and appreciation for, the natural world is even better.
So, what better way for kids to spend their time than outdoors in nature? Add to that a chance for non-English speakers to gain exposure to – and practice in – the language, and you have a winning program.
I’ll be talking a lot more about specific excursions and activities in later posts, but I hope for now that I’ve simply convinced you that the time kids spend in nature is time extremely well spent. See you in the woods!
“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth?” – Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth