Last week, Mary Baldwin University (what a beautiful campus!) in Staunton, Virginia, hosted Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Defecit Disorder, and The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, among other books.
If you’re familiar with Louv, you know that he is an advocate for getting kids outside and into nature. Being outside is part of who people are, part of our collective history, and engrained in our DNA. In today’s world, we need to embrace that part of our being more than ever.
We especially need to instill a love of nature in our young people. Louv’s talk, or sermonette as he called it, was far ranging, but the key was the power of nature on our lives and making sure we balance nature and technology.
His vision for the future is that balance.
Head, heart, hands
When technology advances daily, we have to find time for both new and old. Not old technology, but an old way of life, a life immersed in nature. From earth we came, and to earth we will return. It’s time to once again embrace the outdoors between those beginning and end points.
Schools embrace technology, which is good. Kids need those skills. The problem arises when technology is the sole focus, and nature is neglected.
The scariest thing Louv said is that, according to some education folks, tests will be irrelevant in the near future as technology will constantly evaluate children. Every keystroke, every click, every movement a child makes will be recorded and measured and quantified. Some new schools today have no playgrounds, no outdoor space whatsoever, and have embedded cameras in the walls of every classroom. These children have no escape, no time to be free, to play, to explore, to be creative, and to get away from technology. With that approach, we lose so many valuable skills that can be gained by simply going outside and experiencing the world hands on, not through a screen.
We are Nature
There are currently over 500 studies concerned with the implications nature has on human development. They all in point in the same direction: we need nature in our lives to be happier, healthier, more well rounded people.
Kids with access to greenspace in their schools, and who get more contact with nature, perform better academically than those who don’t have access to the outdoors.
The same goes for kids who have time to play freely outdoors and explore. Sick kids or those recovering from surgery recover more quickly and require fewer pain medications when they have access to the natural world, even if that access is only a window view. This is why so many hospitals, like MCCOSS have gardens where patients can go and enjoy nature during their recovery.
An exercise study focused on a group on a treadmill indoors and a group walking outdoors. They burned the same amount of calories and both groups improved in terms of fitness and happiness. However, the group that was outside improved at dramatically higher rates.
Where We Need To Be
Over the past seven years I have from time-to-time wondered if I’m in the right line of work. But any time I hear or read someone like Richard Louv, and the work that is going on in support of the outdoors and of children, I am reassured this is where I should be.
Today, more than ever, camp plays a vital role in a child’s life. When so much of the school year is spent working on screens, kids need an extended, focused, break immersed in the outdoors. Camp gives them that break, and a tech-free camp is even more powerful.
Some parents fear that if their child doesn’t go to a tech-focused or academic “camp” their child won’t be as “competitive.” The opposite is more likely true – that kids whose education is balanced through true immersion in nature are equally if not more competitive for approaching life, learning, and discovery with wider, fresher eyes and more diverse real-world experiences.
Camp gives kids (and staff) that balance we so desperately need in our lives. Camp is an active education in life, not a passive education on screen. It helps create smarter and more well rounded children, teens, and young adults. And it keeps adults like me young at heart, happy, healthy, and outside, where lots of good work is being done.
We all need camp, and luckily, your daughters have Camp Alleghany for Girls to meet that need. If you haven’t already registered your child for sleepaway summer camp with us, you can see our dates and rates here and you can also register today (a few spaces left so hurry). And if you want to read more, you can download Assistant Director Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise‘s FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Journey Early:
And when you’re done with that – go outside already! 😉
– Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls