Brian McCombie's article "Leave No Child Inside: With a Little Help, Kids Can Learn to Love, Not Fear, Nature" in my hometown paper Isthmus, reports that kids today are more likely than not to lack experiences of the outdoors and some may even be scared by the outdoors. As Karen Dostal, the school district's environmental education coordinator tells Brian McCombie: “It’s surprising how many of even the farm kids are so plugged into their Game Boys and PlayStations."
It’s a truism as old as the woods: If you want to help kids develop an appreciation for nature, you have to get them outdoors.But some observers say kids today are having fewer opportunities than ever to experience nature firsthand.
“Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically,” writes Richard Louv in his 2006 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. “Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment — but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading...“A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rainforest — but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.”
Louv cites a three-generation study showing that the radius around the home in which 9-year-olds were allowed to wander had shrunk by 90% from 1970 to 1990. Parents cited fears of everything from crime to air pollution.
When Louv writes that many American children suffer from a “nature-deficit disorder,” he is not suggesting some medical diagnosis. Rather, he’s referring to “the human costs of alienation from nature,” like diminished use of the senses, a dearth of physical activity, and an overall lack of emotional and spiritual health, compared to kids who regularly spend time outside.