Archive for ‘Children and Nature Network’

October 4, 2012

Looking Forward to Nature

by Melissa Harding

The Children and Nature Network, a national movement to reconnect children to nature, has published another insightful article by Richard Louv. Louv, most famously known for his prolific naturalist books and essays, is also the co-founder and president of the Children and Nature Network. His latest article, Forward to Nature, is adapted from an essay that originally appeared in The Orion Society’s new book, The Thirty Year Plan: Thirty Writers on What We Need to Build a Better Future.

In his article, Louv describes a future where environmentalism is paramount and the world is a nature-rich place. This future is important for us to imagine; he worries that environmentalism will fail unless we paint a compelling picture of what the world could be, rather than a dismal warning of where it is headed.  The environmental movement needs to look forward into nature and not back, creating a new nature movement that goes beyond traditional sustainability principles and provides an inspiring picture of what our world could be. He stresses that this is not just a world that survives, but one that thrives.

To do this, we must create nature in places where it is not: schools, workplaces and cities. Louv writes that natural history is as important as human history; cities must become “engines of biodiversity” in order to preserve this. Everyone needs to be involved in this process, from traditional environmentalists to citizen naturalists and everyone in between.

“The children and nature movement has miles to go before it can declare anything approaching victory. But it has already made inroads in policy and, more importantly, has planted the seeds for self-replicating social change, including at least 109 regional and state campaigns that have brought together businesspeople, conservationists, healthcare providers and others. These others include thousands of parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, librarians, artists, pediatricians, liberals and conservatives, anglers, hunters, and vegetarians. People who not only consume, but also restore nature. People who have found common cause. The children and nature movement, like the larger new nature movement, is surprisingly diverse. Recent immigrants, and inner-city youth, are among the most persuasive advocates for nearby nature and outdoor experience — once they get a chance to have such experiences.” – Richard Louv

We all have a vested interest in a better world.  Very much in the same vein as the IUCN’s Love. Not Loss campaign, Louv’s article also stresses the importance of positive messaging. It is much better to work toward a positive future than to run away from disaster. Louv believes that, if you consider the collective power of all of this influence, great things can be accomplished. We all have insights and abilities to bring to the table; creating change will take the work of everyone, not a select few.

What can you do to be a bigger part of this movement? How do you put a positive spin on the conservation message?
Share your ideas below.

The above image was taken by Melissa Harding.

August 20, 2012

Children with Disabilities and Nature

by Melissa Harding

The Children and Nature Network is at it again with another thought-provoking article. This time, the author is journalist William Stothers and the topic is how children with disabilities interact with nature. In My Feet, Six Inches from the Ground, Stothers writes about his struggle maintaining a connection to nature despite being bound to a wheelchair. As a child, Stothers loved to play outside, running through creeks and climbing trees. After a disabling bout with polio at the age of 10, he became wheelchair dependent. Being “6 inches from the ground” in his chair made him feel isolated from nature and his connection to the natural world declined.

“And there were many other “no mores”  No more wandering along the little creek, no more fishing from the bridge, no more exploring the woods, no more riding my bike. Now when I went out, someone pushed me in my wheelchair. My feet stayed put, about six inches off the grass, the sidewalk, the gravel roads. The natural world seemed to slip away, vibrancy fading out of touch. After a while I didn’t notice, caught up with just getting used to doing as much as I could on wheels.”   – William Stothers

As an adult, Stothers lived and worked in an urban environment for many years. It wasn’t until he discovered his love of photography that he started to rekindle his relationship with the land.

Stothers asserts that children with disabilities tend to be more isolated than their non-disabled peers and that having ready access to nature is one way to combat that tendency. He says that teaching children how to interact with the natural world is important to their health and well-being. As environmental educators, this article is a reminder for us to always consider the ways in which we can continually connect all of our students, disabled and not, to the natural world.

“My feet continue to skim six inches above the grass. Still, I can stick my nose closer to the roses in my front yard and take in the perfume. I can rub my hands over the bark on the big tree in my back yard. And even though the techs tell me not to, I can’t stop powering through puddles. Splashing and grinning.”  – William Stothers

For more information on organizations that help people with disabilities gain greater access to nature, check out the websites at the bottom of Stother’s article.

The above photo was taken by Christie Lawry.

August 6, 2012

Do Outdoor Experiences Help Shape Children’s Brains?

by Melissa Harding

The Children and Nature Network, an online movement to reconnect children to nature, has published another great article by Richard Louv. Louv, most famously known for his prolific naturalist books and essays, is also the co-founder and president of the Children and Nature Network. His article, Nature’s Neurons, asks the question: Do early experiences in the natural world help shape the architecture of young brains? Louv declares that it is time for science to answer this question; he calls on scientists to  further explore this topic and create a better understanding of how nature impacts brain plasticity.

“A growing body of primarily correlative evidence suggests that, even in the densest urban neighborhoods, negative stress, obesity and other health problems are reduced and psychological and physical health improved when children and adults experience more nature in their everyday lives. These studies suggest that nearby nature can also stimulate learning abilities and reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and we know that therapies using gardening or animal companions do improve psychological health. We also know that parks with the richest biodiversity appear to have a positive impact on psychological well-being and social bonding among humans.” – Richard Louv

Louv argues that although we do not know for certain the impact of nature on brain plasticity, it could have a profound effect on reducing stress toxicity. This, in turn, allows young brains to develop more soundly. On the reverse side, Louv asks, does a disconnection from nature cause stress? Hopefully, we will soon find out.

If this debate interests you further, Louv cites some great sources for further reading at the bottom of his article.

The above photo was taken by Melissa Harding.

July 17, 2012

Outdoor Play, Every Day!

by Melissa Harding

The Children and Nature Network, an online movement started by nature writer Richard Louv, recently published a great article, Nature Play as an Everyday Joy? For Kids, Frequency Requires Proximity, on the importance of getting children outside on a frequent basis. Written by Ken Finch, President and Founder of Green Hearts, a non-profit dedicated to repairing the bond between children and nature, this article takes a thoughtful look at the benefits of outdoor experiences for children.

“The children and nature movement is fostering wonderful new ways for kids to play outdoors, such as designed natural playspaces, family nature clubs, and naturalized schoolyards.  These and other similar efforts are valuable steps – not only for the kids, but for parents who are reconsidering their children’s indoor, nature-deprived lives.  Yet most of these new approaches are challenged in one vital dimension:  frequency.”
– Ken Finch

Ken Finch argues that, for children to get the most out of their outdoor time, they need to do it often.
He also shares a few tips for creating a nature play area in your own backyard.

The above photo was taken by Julia Petruska.


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