Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last Child in the Woods

I have just finished reading this amazing book - Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv and for anyone that has not picked it up - I highly recommend it. You know the big focus that has come about with the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and for some reason, any child who is overly excitable - they are immediately labeled as having ADD. This book focuses on a growing problem of Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). Many of us may have had the luxury of growing up near or around green areas. I remember exploring what seemed like a never ending section of forest next to my house when I was little. My brother and I would hunt for black berries and blue berries, we found hidden swimming holes and made pine needle nests. Sadly, many kids now a days don't have the opportunity to explore nature due to massive over building and in our case here in Florida, the belief of slash and burn everything when new housing developments go up. My son just doesn't have a huge back yard where he can get lost in the woods. This book opened my eyes to just how much children need the opportunity to get out and explore nature....explore a pond, explore a patch of woods, smell nature and just listen to it. The Nintendo DS and the world of Wii have taken over SO many children's lives and they spend an unreal amount of time with their bottoms glued to a chair and their faces glued to the tv or video game that many kids have NO idea how to even explore nature. I remember when I used to teach kindergarten, every year I had a large amount of children who had no idea how to even "play" outside. When it came time to go out to the playground for recess, many just sat along the fence because they didn't know how to "play" without a computer system or planned activity.
Thanks to this amazing book, my son and I are now making a conscious effort to get out once a week to explore a new area of town. I have found that he really enjoys hiking so we have hiked many state and county park areas....we have purchased a pair of binoculars and a bird whistle and really get out and experience the joy of nature. One of our last hiking trips, we were the only ones on a 2 mile hiking trail along the Indian River lagoon. We heard a strange noise in the water next to our hiking path and low and behold we were speechless when we saw this beautiful manatee, just a few feet from us, eating off some mangrove trees. We watched, totally captivated for several minutes and then he slowly swam away. I will always remember that moment and seeing my son so excited was just priceless. My son is now able to name a handful of native Florida plants and several bird species and he gets excited when he learns new things each time we are out. I urge everyone to try to get out once a week for their own "green hour" or day and you won't be disappointed!