We Care for What We Know and Love The Case for Healing the Broken Bond between Children and NatureMarti Erickson, Ph.D.Director Emerita, Harris Training Programs, U of MCo-founder & Chair, Children & Nature NetworkCo-host, Mom Enough™, www.momenough.com St. Croix River Association May 11, 2012
Since the 1970s my work has addressed these large research questions:
What does it take to raise a child to become a healthy, caring, responsible, respectful adult? Especially for a child in high-risk circumstances, what are the protective factors that will enable that child to thrive and succeed?
Tipping the Balance Toward Promise Risk Factors Protective Factors
Tipping the Balance Toward Promise Risk Factors Contribution Competence Connection
But while my colleagues and I were studying these important risk and protective factors, something dramatic was happening to children and families across America, and we weren’t paying close enough attention! I want to talk with you about that, in three parts: What? So what? Now what?
What? Children stopped going outside! • Decline in time spent playing outside (and shorter roaming radius) • Decreased use of state & national parks • Shift to structured, adult-directed activities when children are outside
What stops children from playing outside? • Parental fear • Seductiveness of technology • Shift to a reductionistic concept of learning • Lack of access to natural environments (with significant disparities across different segments of the population)
So what? Why does this matter? What are the benefits when children connect with nature? • Better physical health • Reduced stress and anxiety (for children & adults) • Better concentration (note recent findings on ADHD) • More cooperation, problem-solving and creativity • Increased likelihood of being good stewards of the environment in adulthood
Now what? What can you and I do to connect children and nature? When, where and how do we begin?
The Children & Nature Network Working to heal the broken bond between children and nature www.childrenandnature.org Inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder
Now what? Begin early! The theory of biophilia: Children have an innate attraction to natural things. E.O. Wilson
Starting early means we need to engage parents and grandparents. But parents don’t want one more “should,” so how do we meet them where they are?
Connecting with nature serves parents’ needs! • De-stress • Strengthen relationships Together in nature, many benefits, no harmful side effects!
See the world through new eyes! “The only voyage of discovery… consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust, 1923
Suggested parenting goals: • Make outdoor experience a part of your child’s daily life from infancy on • Make outdoor experience a part of YOUR daily life Note: near nature and small nature count. Simple is good!
Starting early also means we need to reach out to childcare providers and early childhood educators. Return nature to schools, pre-K through 12th grade (recess, natural play areas, school gardens, outdoor learning centers)
Windows of Opportunity • Nurture young “natural leaders”* Make it cool to be outside! * Natural Leaders Network, an official program of C&NN…
…but also happening in other previously existing programs “Natural leaders” of all abilities at Wilderness Inquiry in Minneapolis, MN
Windows of Opportunity • Design communities to facilitate nature experience for ALL children Greenways Pocket parks Community gardens Safe public transportation to nearby nature Leave no child inside!
“Whatever kids do is based on how adults have made the environment. Adults will control the government for the next 20 years. Kids do what adults allow them to do. Adults build highways that kids can’t cross to get to the forest. They make video games that keep kids inside. If adults provided better opportunities, kids would go out more.” Simon, age 13
What can your organization do to connect children and families to nature? • Provide transformational experiences in nature for people of all ages • Promote the 3 Cs in nature (connection, competence and contribution) • Engage parents and other caregivers to bridge children’s program experiences into their daily lives • Partner with early childhood programs, schools and other community organizations • Advocate for children’s health and learning through nature
How will YOU use this information to give children the gift of a true connection to nature? To learn more, visit childrenandnature.org and momenough.com