Avoiding Nature Deficit Disorder

Paul ScuttUncategorized

A number of kids balanced in trees

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Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”

— John Muir

Spring shows up in the warmth of the sun, the softening of the earth and the vigour of natural life all around us. The trees start to bud, the flowers burst out of the ground, the grass gets thicker, the birds are singing up a storm, we see more bugs, bees and beetles. And we humans generally feel happier and healthier, ready to start a new chapter in whatever we feel important.

New scientific studies in Korea, Japan, and China (The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams) are beginning to explain why and to log the evidence for academics in biology, psychology and medicine. Korean doctors prescribe walks in fragrant cypress forests with trained forest healers; Scottish mental health professionals take an ecotherapy approach to helping their patients. We are discovering scientific evidence for what we already knew, that exposure to the living world outside enables our creativity and enhances our mood.

Growing up in Africa with no shoes, but outdoors every day, I obviously was very lucky to have had the opportunity to absorb a lot of “nature” (building dams in streams, swinging on tree vines, observing captured Chameleons change colour, etc. while admittedly, suffering sunburn and the occasional insect bite…). At our Learning Cooperatives, we promote the outdoors as much as possible through nature hikes, stream bed scrambling, tree climbing, as well as frisbee throwing, lunch outside with tag games and fairy house construction. There is even a softball club.

At Bucks we have our small plot of land with pines, firs, maples and also with access to the woods behind the Mount Olive cemetery and Heritage Farm Open Space. At Princeton the fabulous Herrontown Woods Arboretum is right across the car park. Raritan is a little further from extensive open space but the members are keen participants in trips to the many state parks nearby. We do our best to provide a natural, outdoor environment for our members while they pursue their growth into adulthood.

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”

— Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder