Back to School and Back to Nature


The school season is upon us, which means more time will be filled up with studying and working under fluorescent lights and less potential time to spend outside. The importance of a good education is paramount, but so too is the importance of getting outside and staying connected with the world outside.

This week, we found some great reminders of the powers that the natural world have over us all.

One of our favorite author’s on the subject, Richard Louv, in a recent interview with Scholastic explains what being outside can do for children’s attention spans, how development, distractions and, parent fears can limit kid’s access to nature and what you can do to make sure that your kids (or any kids, for that matter) get to enjoy being outside:

The best thing you can do is to be enthusiastic about nature yourself. Go out in your backyard. Instead of a manicured lawn or garden, leave some spots untamed so kids can dig in the dirt and find rocks or interesting weeds. If you have a vegetable garden, have your child help you plant seeds or pick tomatoes. Even walking to your local park can be a nature walk to a preschooler — he can collect leaves, you can point out trees and bushes and show him the bugs crawling along the curb. Let your kids get down in the dirt so they can see at eye level the whole universe there. Nature is good for everyone's mental health. Nature isn't the problem; it's the solution."

Continuing the advice, on his blog this week, Louv has writes to teachers and educators urging them to take proactive steps bringing the natural world into the classroom. Though the intended audience is for people who work in the classroom, we can all take on the role of being nature educators in our own ways, so the advice can extend to everyone. A few tidbits:

  • Get to know the research - Environmental literacy is essential, but that’s only part of the story.

  • Teach the teachers - and the principals, superintendents, and school board members, too. Many teachers feel inadequately trained to give their students an outdoors experience, and all educators need to know about the benefits to education and the opportunities that already exist.

  • Green your schoolyard -  Studies suggest that school gardens and natural play spaces stimulate learning and creativity, and improve student behavior.

Read on for more details and seven other pieces of advice.

Echoing Louv’s appeal to the power of the woods, Daniel Crockett writes in The Huffington Post this week on what he considers to be the next big social movement; nature connection. Quoting a catalog of naturalists, philosophers, poets, academics and more, Crockett suggests that current trends of separating ourselves from each other through technology and general self interest has left a hole in our existence that we are once again realizing is vital for a healthy and happy life.

I believe that this movement (whose many voices remain disparate) has the ability to unite a new generation, to dispel (to paraphrase Vaughan-Lee) our "image of separateness." And the reason for this has to do with our own shared identity as children, something we all once were. George Mackay Brown puts it well: "We were all poets, and have squandered our inheritance like the prodigal son. But we have kept enough back to remember how immensely rich we were once, in our childhood, when poetry flowed in unchecked through our senses."

The natural world is out there (and inside you!), so lets go exist in it, Warriors! Let’s get ourselves outside and continue to engage students, teachers and our communities in celebrating and preserving the natural world!


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