NATURE DEFICIT? NOT THESE CHILDREN
Wednesday, October 20, 2010- Halifax, NS:The children stop what they are doing and scramble to another child that has shouted that they have found a salamander. She is holding it gently in their hand and while the others push their way into the crowd to take a look at the small amphibian before it is carefully put back in its home.
This fall, children at two schools that host the Halifax Regional School Board’s EXEL Child Care Programs are participating in an innovative program, called Wild Child Nature Immersion. These “Wild Children” explore and play outside in a forested area, while learning about local living ecosystems.
“There has been an increase in awareness that children need to explore in nature,” says Heidi Verheul, Elementary Environmental Education Program Coordinator for the Sierra Club Canada-Atlantic Chapter. “This sense of delight that they experience when they find a salamander is essential to their healthy development and is needed for our survival as a species.”
Wild Child is responding to increasing public awareness of Nature Deficit Disorder and has been designed to increase children’s exposure to nature . Richard Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder in his book “Last Child in the Woods” where he describes the growing disconnect between children and nature. Louv argues that a decrease in playing in natural settings has contributed to a rise in childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
While children in Canada are spending on average 6 hours a day consuming media, research presented in the November issue of the American journal Pediatrics suggest that more than 2 hours of screen time a day can lead to psychological issues in children and youth. Other research has indicated that nature-based experiences are a part of healthy child development. By personally connecting with nature, children can grasp the importance of healthy ecosystems and how it impacts on our health and well being.
“We were thrilled to be seeing results in terms of behaviour, increased engagement, and attention to natural features within the first few weeks of program delivery, “ states Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Atlantic Canada Chapter. “The children love getting outside, feedback from parents has been supportive, and we hope to find funders to help us deliver this program past the pilot phase to as many children as possible.”
This pilot project is supported by Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Grants Program and will wrap up in January of 2011 with further programming contingent on future funding.
For additional information or to schedule an interview contact:
Elementary Enviro Ed Coordinator,Sierra Club Canada Atlantic Canada Chapter
Coordinator EXCEL Child Care Program
P: (902) 464-2000 ext 2495
Want to know what the Wild Children are up to? Check out the Wild Child blog here: http://atlantic.sierraclub.ca/en/blog/heidi-verheul