In his his best-selling book Lost Child in the Woods, Richard Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder to describe a range of current child health issues arising from a lifestyle that focuses on screen time rather than outdoor exploration. Research shows that the
strongest links with the environment are made during childhood, but many children are living a life separated from nature. The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Ontario decided to assume leadership in the province for exploring what is happening, what are the barriers to getting children back outdoors and to raise the flag of the Child and Nature Network.
Barrie Martin asked me to help coordinate and then facilitate the first exploratory meeting, held in November of 2008. We brought interested people from all over the province to RBG, to begin discussions about a strategy for putting children and nature back together.
This is one of GAEL’s real success stories, because that workshop was held in 2008, and in 2012, there is a Back to Nature Network established in the province. Trillium provided a grant to fund a Back to Nature Network Coordinator, and Bill Kilburn has been working hard to uncover more information, gather energy between and among stakeholders, and create some real change for children in Ontario. The latest success is the new Back to Nature Teachers Guide which is a unique guide that enables the teaching of all Ontario school curriculum subjects outdoors in nature on a regular basis. Content of the guide includes logistics, resources and learning experiences for teaching in nature. All learning experiences are linked to Ontario curriculum documents and include: Nature 101, a series of five phases to move from the indoor classroom to the outdoor learning space; fifty Nature2Go activities; and full lessons that last one class period or more.
And a final note…in the Globe and Mail today (November 24, 2012) there is a great article on page 5 of the Focus section about natural playgrounds and getting kids outside. The word is getting out there!