Time to Unplug and Get Outdoors!

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Yesterday was a busy day! Amidst all of the regular business of the weekend – playing catch up with everything that gets postponed during the week – I was busy helping my stepdaughter pack for science camp.  She is one excited and nervous sixth grader!  She loves the outdoors. Like most children, she can very easily get lost in the television, but she is equally amazed with nature. She will head outside with very little prompting.I also received an email yesterday from one of my daughter’s friends in college (also a former student). She is working on a research paper and wanted to get my perspective as a teacher.  The questions she had were in regards to technology, specifically cell phones and children.  Many (but certainly not all) of my students have cell phones.  They use them for everything – not just phone calls. As we know, smart phones are basically mini-computers.

So both of these ideas have been on my mind – kids enjoying nature and kids caught up with technology. For the last dozen years I have taken students to science camp.  I have traveled with students to the Marin Headlands, Santa Cruz mountains, Yosemite National Park, and Catalina Island. Each program is wonderful.  They are all run by incredible naturalist that love sharing their passion for the great outdoors with students. But the best aspect of the trips is witnessing the transformation so many of my students undergo as they are surrounded by the beauty of nature. Getting away from all things technological and taking hikes, listening to birds, spotting animals (even a bear or two in Yosemite), marveling at the massive size of a Sequoia, scooping living organisms from a pond. I see curiosity sparked in the children. Amazement and wonder set in. I think we all breathe deeper when we are in the middle of nature – the air is fragrant.

A while back I read a great book that talks about how kids today (surrounded with technology) are less able to engage with our planet.  Last Child in the Woods; Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv spells out the importance of getting off the couch and getting outdoors.

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This book does a great job talking about the importance of getting outside.  It also does a great job taking about the consequences of not communing with nature.  I have found that the best way to get the kids outside – is to get outside yourself! I believe that nature-deficit affects us adults as well as our children.I remember one Mother’s Day, all I wanted was to go on a family hike.  I chose a short one-mile loop through some hills near a local school.  Everyone complained the entire time! Really notmuch of a successful Mother’s Day.  But then I went through a divorce and joined a hike group.  That was the best thing I could have done for myself on so many different levels.  The funny thing was the more I spent outside hiking, the more my children were drawn to the idea.  Now, they organize hikes themselves to the top of a local hill when they are at home, and they have also found great trails near their schools. My daughter in Boulder has access to great hiking trails and takes advantage of it. Hiking has become one of their favorite activities. So much so, I can even plan a family hike these days!

While technology adds a lot to our lives, providing us with tons of information and the ability to easily connect – It cannot replace the good old outdoors.  Nothing can be a substitute for a walk in the woods.

And for us at a minimum – these two sweet dogs get us out walking every day!
A walk in the woods (or around the neighborhood) is good for our souls.
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