“The average North American child spends seven hours a day staring at screens and mere minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors…Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth.”
— from How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art And Science Of Falling In Love With Nature, a field guide for getting kids in touch with nature in a tech-centered world.
I recently heard an interview with the book’s author Scott Sampson. He’s the vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. But to a whole lot of American kids, he’s the guy on “Dinosaur Train,” a PBS Kids TV show.
“One of the problems today is that kids don’t have their sensory skills developed. We can walk outside and not hear the birds or smell the flowers or feel the air. And so the initial challenge is just to start noticing nature.”
Scott suggests an easy strategy anyone can do:
“Get kids taking pictures of [nature] if they need to use technology.
I’ve done this activity, and it really works!
Another strategy Sampson describes is the importance of storytelling in developing children’s affinity for nature. There are a variety of stories you can share:
- A personal experience—like the story I tell my students about my snowshoeing trip across a frozen lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
- A nature experience from another person—such as the stories in the Earth Heroes series, biographies of naturalists and environmentalists.
- Creative non-fiction stories—all of Dawn Publications books inspire a greater awareness and appreciation of nature. Dawn books also connect with Next Generation Science and Common Core Standards. Visit any of the older posts on this blog for lesson plan ideas.
Sampson makes another point I completely agree with:
“You don’t have to necessarily live near the Olympic Rain Forest or Muir Woods or some kind of other amazing natural setting. Almost any patch of dirt will do.”
How to Raise a Wild Child is a timely and engaging antidote, showing how kids’ connection to nature changes as they mature, and empowering grown-ups to be strong mentors.”
And my final thought:
An added benefit of helping your students get in touch with nature is that you may discover that your own awareness and appreciation of nature increases too!