Investing in the Future:
Children & Nature Network Conference 2015
BY HEIDI KEULER, LA CROSSE FWCO
It has been ten years since the first publication of Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. In his book, Louv talked about “Nature-Deficit Disorder” and how children are not playing in nature like they once were. He pointed to evidence that the rise in child obesity, attention disorders, and depression were closely related to the shortage of nature in family life. In families that have spent time in nature, Louv and his colleagues have observed physical and emotional benefits of unstructured play.
After many people read Louv’s book, they thought that there were just as many adults with the “disorder.” So in 2012, he wrote, The Nature Principle: Reconnection with Life in a Virtual Age. In this book Louv explains that we can be immersed in both technology and nature and the effects of nature can be both a driving force for creativity and a healing therapy.
Although Richard Louv would tell you that many people have been working to connect kids to nature long before his first book was published; he has set off a major nature movement, called the “New Nature Movement.” He has also initiated an organization called the Children & Nature Network: childrenandnature.org. The Children & Nature Network (CNN) is working to create a world where every child can play, learn and grow in nature. This past April the Children & Nature Network Conference was based on these topics:
- Create vibrant cities with lots of green space and areas to walk and bike,
- Grow healthy children – medical studies are showing the benefits of spending time in nature (References available)
- Build diverse, nature-smart leaders – focus on the next generation, building on our senses
- Transform education – increasing green schoolyards or creating more nature experiences
- Success stories from the field – inspiring grassroots action
Over 400 people attended including 22 – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees from Headquarters, National Conservation Training Center, and USFWS Regions 1-8. Fortunately, I was able to attend as the representative from Region 3. At the conference I learned so many useful things that will help me not only in my profession, but also in my local school district, Parent Teacher Organization, community, family life and even personally. I came home from the conference rejuvenated and ready to put my ideas into action.
Highlights from the conference included talks given by Richard Louv, Juan Martinez – Director of Leadership Development in the Children & Nature Network, Guillermo Penalosa – Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, and Dr. Scott Sampson – Chief Curator of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (also famous Paleontologist on Dinosaur Train -TV show on PBS) and three kids that talked about Biophilic Design on Minecraft, iNaturalist App research, and invasive species. Richard Louv and Dr. Scott Sampson both had book signings.
Nature Apps for phones:
- Nature Passport
- Merlin Bird ID – The Cornell Lab
- National Parks – National Geographic
Programs to check out:
- Transforming Youth Outdoors – Outdoor programs for youth, books, guides and other resources
- Every Kid in a Park – Every 4th grader and their families (2015-16 school year) will get a free pass to public lands
- Natural Leaders Network -
- STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math education
- Plum Landing – PBS Kids/WGBH
- YMCA Bold & Gold Program
Books to check out:
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Richard Louv, (2005, 2008)
The Nature Principle Richard Louv (2012)
How to Raise a Wild Child Scott D. Sampson (2015)
Eco psychology: Science, Totems, and the Technological Species Patricia Hasbach, (2012)
Asphalt to Ecosystems Sharon Gamson Danks (2010)
During the conference USFWS employees met to discuss what they learned as well as share some of the great outreach projects they work on. This was a unique opportunity to network and learn how to connect kids with nature.