Richard Louv and the NHCINC
I recently had the happy privilege of hearing Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods; Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" speak at a forum for teachers in Concord. Many of you may know that Louv was the key-note speaker at the Montessori conference in California last year. This is where I first heard of him, so when I found out he was coming to NH I jumped at the chance to hear him speak. The forum was sponsored by the Sierra Club, Children and Nature Network and NH Children in Nature Initiative/NH Leave No Child Inside.
For those of you who have not read the book, a very brief synopsis is that Louv remembers back to his childhood when children played outside all day, searched the woods for interesting stuff and grudgingly came home for dinner when called by a parent. He is sad to report that this wild abandon is not taking place today for various reasons.
Parents are concerned about tics, mosquitoes, misplaced wild animals and especially strangers. Children are drawn to television, computers and video games to name a few. And yet more and more studies are finding that outdoor play is closely related to good physical and mental health. Louv feels that it is "fundamental to who we are" to be out in nature and adds spiritual health to the list. He says we must get children out from under "protective house arrest."
As Montessori teachers we are concerned with the environment and want to pass stewardship practices on to the next generation. One large problem is that even though children these days could tell you the names of rainforest trees and animals and know that the rainforests are in danger, they often have no personal link to their own forest. In order for them to "care" intrinsically about what happens to the rainforest and grow up to be a responsible caretaker of the earth that link is vital.
I knew I loved Richard Louv but when he quoted Maria Montessori he had me eating out of his hands. He opened with a remark of hers about how children find their strength in nature. He closed with a list of things that parents can do. Most of you, I'm sure, are already doing them and passing them on to your parents. They are:
- Manage your own fears
- Allow what you may think is dangerous to happen
- Realize that children need to explore and individuate with their experiences with nature
- Let kids incrementally learn how to manage risk factors
- Know that being outside is very important for kids physically, emotionally and spiritually
- Know that an aseptic risk-free society is not a reality
- The epidemic is obesity and diabetes, not EEE
- Instead of feeding the helpless feelings of "eco-phobia" create a "culture of care" at home and at school regarding the natural world
- Very Montessori isn't he??
Some important things for you as educators to know are the connections to other agencies that can help you to foster the love of the outdoors in children (and to help their parents demystify the dangers.) Marilyn Wyzga is the Wildlife Educator for the NH Fish and Game Department. This department has created a listserve that will "work as a communications hub to launch new actions, share success stories and offer funding ideas." A website for NH Children in Nature Coalition is also in the works. Contact Marilyn at Marilyn.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Other great websites include www.wildnh.com www.cnaturenet.org and www.wildnewengland.org.
Have fun outside with the kids!!!