Kids in Need of Vitamin N
Recess is considered nonessential, something almost extra-curricular, that can be taken away or used as leverage.
When expensive studies at universities and health care are undertaken by degreed personnel show that learning is enhanced by time spent outdoors, news reports seem to be astonished at the “new” findings. Mothers simply shrug and say, “I could have told you that.” Teachers have long noted that a trip outdoors destresses the entire classroom. Kids with behavioral problems are “different kids” in the out of doors. Fresh air invigorates the mind and puts some sunshine on perspective.
The North American Association for Environmental Education is helping educators see the parallel between the quality of life and the quality of the environment. Natural learning for students has been the mantra of the National Wildlife Federation since the launch of Ranger Rick Magazine in 1967.
Many schools have park-like playgrounds with rocks to climb, gardens to tend, and environmental science projects taking place under the trees. Eco-Schools are being awarded with grants and funding. Schools that utilize outdoor classrooms see an improvement in their overall testing scores.
The challenge for parents, teachers and educators today is the addictive quality of technology that vies for our time, interest, and attention. As a result, families as a whole are suffering from lack of Vitamin N…Nature.
I’ve seen parents, who think they are hiking with their kids, on their cell phones, texting, sending photos of surroundings they’ve barely noticed. The examples we are setting doesn’t bode well for the next generation whose well-being is at stake. They aren’t being taught to get out and get fresh air, leave everything behind, destress, enjoy nature.
Here at the resort where I live, families come many miles to vacation together in the beautiful western North Carolina mountains. I see them sitting at the pool, scrolling. Adults in the shade with their lap tops on patio tables have brought their work along. Hiking, all but the littlest of them have cells in their hands. Last summer by the river with Buddy a little boy visited Buddy. The parents, ignoring him, were texting from under the trees. The little girl discovered a passion fruit flower curling around a sapling. “Look, Mom! What is this?” Mom looked up. “That’s nice, Shelby.” Another brother came running, “I want to see.” He looked at it and said, “I’ll take a picture of it. We can google it.” In an instant, the lesson was over. When they came into the river to see Buddy, I told them they’d seen a passion flower and they were so lucky to see it, because not many visitors do. “I bet I can find more,” the boy said, and he took off. The children moved on following the riffles and tumbling water. I told the little one still hugging Buddy that if he moved some of the flat stones under his feet, he would find something interesting. His parents called him and he moved on. I hope he gets to see a shiny mud puppy sometime.
The purpose of the Little Beth Series I’ve written is to get the little ones outdoors and LOOKING! The backyard is the first science lab for little children.