Nature Deficit Disorder Christine Hatcher
Nature Deficit Disorder • Nature Deficit Disorder was brought to the surface by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods. Louv describes NDD as the human costs of alienation from nature or a lack of routine contact with nature. • As stated in Louv’s book, There is a new era of suburban sprawl society has entered that restricts outdoor play, and encourages a “plugged-in” culture that draws kids indoors. • NDD may result in stunted academic and developmental growth such as behavioral problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression. NDD is not a medical diagnosis but more so a term used to explain the epidemic as a whole.
NDD (continued) • With technology taking the nation and the world on its roller coaster ride of entertainment, human interactive with nature and the natural environment is at an all-time low. Kids are sitting in front of the TV or computer instead of building forts or running around through the woods and outdoors. • This lack of interaction has resulted in a term coined by Richard Louv. It’s called Nature Deficit Disorder, which is a lack of routine contact with the natural environment. (Tucker, 2006) • Nature Deficit Disorder has been linked to many health issues including Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Immune system depletion, childhood obesity, and anxiety. (Voiland, 2008) • While for the rest of the nation this is a sad reality to come to terms with, for Parks and Recreation Professionals, this is our opportunity to shine by providing services to people who have succumbed to NDD.
Parks and Recreation Professionals • Today, for a parks and recreation professional, this is a new and frightening concept because it makes the entire parks and recreation industry vulnerable to a loss in interest and it has shed some light on an important issue that needs to be addressed with urgency. With this new idea becoming more known to the profession, professionals now have a new problem to tackle and are responsible for providing opportunities to ensure this deficit be prevented. • Nature Deficit Disorder is a real occurrence that is happening in America. It is easy, as a parent, to sit your child in front of a TV or computer screen because the parent is so stressed, or busy tackling day to day tasks. Some parents don’t feel like they have the time or resources to get their kids into every team sport, or organization. This is where Parks and Recreation Professionals need to step in. • We in the field need to develop cost effective, and attainable opportunities for youth and their families to interact freely with nature and the natural wildlife. Safety is cited as a major concern for parents in reference to their children playing outdoors. Again, parks and Recreation professionals have the tools to create safe, and affordable opportunities to youth in their communities.
Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder • Recent studies have suggested that spending more time outdoors actively with the natural environment can help children with ADD/ADHD. • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can make tasks the require concentration such as homework, time management, taking a test, daily chores or responsibilities difficult for children to accomplish. • A University of Illinois study showed that children with demonstrated greater attention after a 20 minute walk in a park than after a similar walk in a downtown area or residential neighborhood. (Kuo & Taylor, 2004) • Children with ADHD or ADD showed significantly reduced symptoms following after-school or weekend activities in green outdoor settings (natural areas such as parks, farms, or a green backyard) compared to activities in other settings, including built outdoor settings (parking lots, downtown areas) or indoor settings. (Larson, 2011)
The relationship between Nature and Health • Scientists have found that spending a significant amount of time outdoors in nature can help build a healthier immune system in children. • Living in “high-nature conditions” buffers children against the effect of stressful life events. • One study of the effect of nature on the psychological well-being of children in third through fifth grade found that those with more nature near their homes had: • Lower levels of behavioral conduct disorders. • Less anxiety. • Less depression. • A higher sense of self-worth. • Recovered more quickly from stressful life events. (Mowen, 2010)
Obesity in children and Adolescents • It’s not a secret that America has an epidemic on it’s hands. 17% (12.5 million) children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years old are obese. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014) • Allowing children free unconstructed play in green outside areas is a more effective way to increase physical activity. (Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health, 2006) • "Physical activity is very important for the healthy development of your child during the first six years of life. It is even more important in the first three years of life when brain development is accelerated," (CBC News, 2014) • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014)
So what do we do? • So as Recreation Professionals, it’s our job to provide communities outdoor opportunities. Obviously we offer sports, summer camps that are nature focused, organizations such as the Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts of America, and so forth, but what else can we do? • One article from Western Kentucky University suggests that schools allow Physical Education teachers to get kids outside, off the playground, and out into the natural environment. They provide examples for unstructured play through hikes, archery, and Environmental Education. (Stenger-Ramsey & Curl, 2010) • The Authors of this article suggest that schools, and recreation professional’s work together to incorporate nature within school curriculum.
Something Fuzzy • Two kinds of seeds • Two pieces of man made litter • Something straight • Something round • Something smooth • Something rough • Two different types of leaves • Something that makes noise • A chewed leaf • A cool rock • A pinecone/acorn • Something green that is not grass • A Stick • Something you think is cool Nature Scavenger Hunt To the right is a Scavenger Hunt list. This scavenger Hunt is designed to make you go outside and find items in your neighborhood, local park, community etc. but it has to be found in nature. Have Fun and remember: Nature is COOL!