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Thoughts on Giving Children the Gift of Nature

LeilahandsFor most of us, this time of year is associated with gathering, feasting, celebrating, and gift giving. For the children in our lives, it is a particularly exciting season. Many a toy, game, action figure, and electronic device will be unwrapped in the next few days.  There is one very important gift, however, that may have been overlooked.

Though it cannot be purchased or wrapped, and though it’s unlikely to appear on many wish lists or letters to Santa Claus, a fun and meaningful experience in nature is something we all ought to consider giving to the children in our lives. Their health and well-being—and the future of our planet—may even depend on it.

What do we really know about the importance of unstructured play in nature? How did this topic end up on the agenda at the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress this fall?  What can we—as practitioners and as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of kids—do to rebuild the deteriorating connection between children and the natural world?

Girl&FlowersWe begin exploring this subject by chatting with author Richard Louv, who coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” when he wrote Last Child in the Woods in 2005. The co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, Louv is widely credited with sparking an international movement to reconnect children with nature.

One of the first sparks to ignite was in Canada, where Louv’s writing provided biologist Bob Peart with such a renewed sense of hope and purpose that he founded the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada. We were delighted to talk with him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADr. Stephen R. Kellert, Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies shares a piece he wrote just for this issue. Much of Dr. Kellert’s work, including his new book Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World, focuses on understanding human need and affinity for nature.

We take a look at some communities who are tackling nature deficit disorder through their schools and government.  Learn what can happen When Nature is Your Classroom and when local government officials view Connecting Children to Nature as Public Service.

AndreiWith help from Biohabitats’ Bioregion leaders, we shine our non-profit spotlight on a few organizations that are actively connecting kids to nature through innovative programs and services.

We provide resources for those of you who want to learn more, and we share the latest about what we’ve been up to at Biohabitats.

This issue of Leaf Litter has given all of us at Biohabitats an opportunity to pause and think about the importance of sharing our passion for nature with young people. We hope that the smiling children in the photos included in this issue (many of whom are members of the Biohabitats family) serve as a reminder of the good that comes from giving the gift of nature.

Let us know what you think of the issue!

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