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Nature Deficit Disorder


Taking part in a discussion group comprised of parents, one mother answers a question about her children and the outdoors, “It was a perfect, quiet day, the kids are skiing down the mountain, and they’ve got their headphones on. They can’t enjoy just hearing nature and being out there alone. They can’t make their own entertainment. They have to bring something with them.”

One boy, a fourth-grader said that he liked to play indoors because that’s where all the electrical outlets are, and a number of children expressed that their parents were afraid of letting them play in the woods. Some parents simply believe that nature is no longer available to them. These comments came out as author Richard Louv interviewed parents about nature.

A century ago, historian Frederick Jackson Turner announced that the American frontier had ended. His thesis is debated to this day but a similar thesis is currently being considered, is society coaching children out of nature?

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Well-meaning parents scare children out of the woods, urban development has taken its toll, natural history is giving way to genetic engineering, and summer camp has become computer camp.

Louv called the phenomena Nature-Deficit Disorder.
As young people spend less time in nature, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and the richness of their human experience is greatly diminished. At the same time growing research links mental, physical and spiritual health to association with nature. As one scientist puts it, "We can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and sleep, they may very well need contact with nature."


Environmental lessons on their own will not completely address NDD but we have thrown our weight behind the wheel. We would like to give kids and families the opportunity to connect with nature and outdoor recreation, and environmental education increases the odds of that happening.

Hiking, biking and kayaking, rambles and reserve visits, along with nature journaling, family time and unstructured play is the Geoeducation method.
With that in mind we developed an easily executed program that would engage participants for a year,
in the process ushering families and student groups out of doors.