July 6, 2011

Nature Literacy: Kids and Green Space

When we do our Rites of Passage weekends, or our “Guys” outings with young males, as much as possible, we try to get them out into the natural world. Never has a generation been so cut off from the physical earth, it's joys, beauty, and lessons it holds. About a year ago I offered a Man-Making blog post on the notion of Nature-Deficit Disorder. For me it gave a name to the costs a young person experiences when they are kept from the natural world. It turns out that there is a growing body of research on the topic, handouts for motivated mentors and examples of programs where adults are teaching kids about the great outdoors.

A recent Wired Mag article titled, The Psychology of Nature,describes some research done at a large housing project on the South Side of Chicago. Some of the residents had a view of nothing but concrete sprawl, the blacktop of parking lots and basketball courts. Others looked out on grassy courtyards filled with trees and flowerbeds. The researcher, Frances Kuo, the director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois, discovered simply living in an apartment with a view of greenery led to significant improvements in mood, attitude, and ability to cope with problems. Kuo believes simply looking at a tree refreshes the ability to concentrate, and "there is something inherently “restorative” about natural settings.” She is even studying the impact of green school grounds on kids' academic performance.

A long term advocate of the importance of connecting kids and nature is Jon Young. Jon has 25 years of mentoring people, in what he terms a deep nature connection. He is the author of Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature, the go-to book on the topic. Jon is also one of the founders of the very successful Wilderness Awareness School. The School's approach to nature education draws upon the vast experiences of naturalists and even that of indigenous peoples from around the world.

In the (somewhat promotional) video below, Jon describes some of the healing of young people he has witnessed as a result of taking kids into the natural world. He also introduces us to two women who are pioneering different programs designed to increase earth literacy in young people. Check out the links below this video clip to learn more about all of these programs. If the clip doesn’t appear use THIS LINK.

For now for me, I'm going for a walk!

Jon Young's book Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature.

Information on the Wilderness Awareness School.

Wendolyn Bird - Children, Nature and You - Adding Awe and Wonder to Children's Lives - Invigorating kid's imagination using the natural world. For children 3-5 years old. You may also want to download Wendolyn’s PDF Nature Guide.

Karen Howell: Earth literacy for young people through applied permaculture and the children’s garden. Exploring A Sense of Place programs.

The Children and Nature network website.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources No Child is Left Inside initiative.

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1 comment:

  1. Tim W.9:54 AM

    Another good organization is the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings. In their programs volunteers connect inner-city kids to the great outdoors (and environmentalism) with hikes and field trips. The target population of kids are like those mentioned in this blog post. The ones who most often have very little contact with nature.


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