Sunday, April 14, 2013

Last Child in the Woods

We had waited til midnight. We drove without lights, clutching
trowels and flower pots. The van slid to a stop. Our teacher
instructed us to out our ski masks on. Then we slipped into the
shadows, intent on our mission.
No, this was no crime school a la Artful Dodger. Our plant
kingdom teacher (an endearing man with a striking resemblance to the
Pillsbury Doughboy) carried out frequent field trips to green spaces
where we were to trudge leisurely, checking out flora. The eagerly
anticipated grande finale was a weekend retreat. This time he'd
discovered a place where cars were running over cacti. We were on a
rescue mission.
This treasured memory popped into my mind when I was reading
Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from
Nature-Deficit Disorder. It's an indictment of the many factors in
our society that have growing numbers of children missing out on the
experience of going out to play. There's a lot more at work than
nostalgic sadness. When youngsters lack unstructured time in the out-
of-doors it can negatively effect their physical and psychological
health and ability to learn and build positive relationships.
Early on kids know they need this. I know of schools with
perfectly manicured playgrounds surrounded by off limits woods.
Recess can become a battle of wits between teacher monitors trying to
keep everyone safely and manageably in the designated play area and
their charges getting as close to the trees as possible.
Sadly when kids get older things happen. They catch our fears
of Mr. Stranger Danger or lawsuits. We schedule them as relentlessly
as we do ourselves. Electronics become alluring. So you have
heartbreaking sights like pristine sledding hills...on snow days for
Pete's sake.
All, however, is not lost. Last Child in the Woods is a
treasure trove of ideas ranging from ways parents can introduce their
little ones to nature to eco friendly urban designs. Teachers and
school administrators will love the chapter on place/environmental
based education. If we all work together we can restore to our
children the natural world they and we so badly need.
On a personal note, Orono United Methodist and Universal Fellowship
churches shared an Easter sunrise service outside where we belonged.
Then my church hosted a breakfast. I was pleased and proud that our
guests were delighted with the food and fellowship.
A great big shout out goes out to the men who did all the cooking,
serving, and cleaning for that fine breakfast.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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