LEAVE NO CHILD INSIDE
The single most important ingredient that ignited my lifelong passion for insects and all natural history was…freedom.
Supportive parents, teachers, librarians, and scientists all fostered my interest in insects and natural history, but it was the freedom to explore and discover nature at my own pace that really made the difference.
As a youngster, I spent many glorious hours on end wandering along trails, hiking up canyons, mucking about in streams, turning over rocks, examining flowers, and peeling back bark.
These early explorations taught me a great deal about the natural world. They also rewarded me with invaluable self-knowledge that continues to serve me well today—that the outdoors is my own personal refuge.
Sadly, unstructured time for most children has become a thing of the past. Recess time outside has been eliminated from many elementary schools. Overburdened with homework, sports, and other structured activities, children today have little time or inclination to just step out outside and ‘be.’
Freedom to explore, to get dirty, and to be ‘human beings’ instead of ‘human doings’ has all but vanished for children. Studies show that their outdoor time is down by 50% when compared to that of their parents and grandparents.
Cheryl Charles, president of the Children and Nature Network, notes that during the past two or three decades, well-intentioned parents have replaced nature with scheduled activities and events. She notes that technology, such as computers, iPods, television, etc., have their place but are consuming a disproportionate amount of their children’s time.
Parents are justifiably worried about the safety of their children, but the Internet has proven to be more dangerous than the outdoors, which is even more reason to encourage children to spend more time in “green space” than with “screen space.”
As human beings, we need the colors and rhythms that only nature can provide. The sights, smells, and sounds of nature provide us with vivid of memories that last a lifetime.
Years from now it is these shared experiences outdoors—not those in front of a television or computer screen—that will help us and our children to recall family and friends long since gone.
The disjunction between children and nature is not only to their detriment, but also to the detriment of nature itself. After all, we only save what we love and we love only what we know.
According to researchers at Cornell University, children who spend time in the wild fishing and camping before the age of 11 are more likely to grow up to be environmentally-minded and committed as adults.
The very notion of “leave no child behind” must begin with the basic concept of “leave no child inside.” The next time you really want to do something for a child, spend time with them outdoors. Just go out into the yard, or visit a city, state, or national park. It will do you both a world of good.
To learn more about movements to reconnect children with nature visit < http://www.cnaturenet.org/> and the National Wildlife Federation’s “Green Hour” program <www.GreenHour.org>.
©2007, A.V. Evans