In a recent phone conversation with my best childhood friend, who now teaches, among other things, Human Development, our conversation diverged to a common concern. Not only has the adjustment to life in Florida been difficult for me as the mountains seem so distant, but the awareness that these students are growing up in an urban jungle, replete with transplant sand beaches, palm trees and highways, like arteries, running through the middle of everything. It's not easy being a young person in our world. I don't think that we make it any easier by removing ourselves from nature. I am thrilled that my students enjoy listening to music on their ipods. I think music provides a lot of positive and creative stimulus for the brain. I am dumbfounded that my students might not be able to create a craft of some sort or put together a puzzle . . . or recognize the difference between a Redwood or Oak Tree!
My friend then told me about a book that he had recently picked up that he thought I might enjoy, Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. The book focuses on what we can do to prevent our children from acquiring, what he has coined as nature deficit disorder. Although I have not finished the book yet, I can already tell that there are many parts of it, if not the book in its entirety, which would be helpful for both adults and young people.
It's not uncommon to link the idea of many of the current learning disorders to a lack of certain stimulus or over-stimulus. Many of the ideas that we, as educators, are fearful of: teaching to the tests, cutting recess and physical education, larger class sizes, longer class periods, shorter lunches, etc . . . are all feeding an epidemic of restless and under-stimulated students. So, how will these young people, our children and students, be able to access nature for their children and students? As the generations perpetuate themselves, we grow further and further away from nature.
Stay tuned . . . I am organizing programs to take a group of students to Yosemite National Park and a few other trips in the coming year.
Pick the book up if you have a chance. We all must be agents of change. Go for it! Make a difference.