Getting children involved with nature

Lahontan State Recreation Area in Nevada.

By David Morrow
Administrator, Nevada State Parks

CARSON CITY, Nev.–As park and recreational professionals, we should be concerned about a growing trend in America, increased screen time spent on computers, cell phones, video games and television. The latest Parks & Recreation magazine had an article entitled “Returning to Nature.”

It asked its members and other recreation and park professionals to become engaged in the growing movement to reconnect children with nature. It cited a growing trend of children who do not have the same connection to the outdoors as generations before. Of course, some of us who qualify as “members of the generations before” category didn’t always have access to radios and TVs and thus found the outdoors a wonderful place to spend time. My childhood memories are filled with hiking, fishing and playing in the outdoors from sunup to sundown.

Another publication, Last Child in the Woods, written by Richard Louv, has evoked a wide response from parents, educators, elected officials and concerned adults who agree with the author’s premise that children are increasingly afflicted with a “nature deficit disorder.”

Louv states in the introduction of his book: “The shift in our relationship to the natural world is startling, even in settings that one would assume are devoted to nature. Not long ago, summer camp was a place you camped, hiked in the woods, learned about plants and animals or told firelight stories about ghosts or mountain lions. As likely as not, today ‘summer camp’ is a weight-loss camp or a computer camp. For a generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear, to ignore.”

By now you wonder how this all impacts State Parks. Well, if this trend continues, our parks will go unvisited and it will be increasingly difficult to get the needed political support. But perhaps more importantly, future generations will grow up without learning about and experiencing the wonders of the great outdoors. Imagine a future generation of people who have not caught a fish, explored a cave or hiked a new trail. Imagine future leaders that have no connection to nature and care little about all the special features in the world.

How can we help? By doing more to provide interpretive education, working with scouts and other outdoor groups and making an effort to work with school groups, whenever the occasions arise. The involvement in getting young people out in our parks and teaching them about the things we all love should be one of our top priorities.


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