These days, being outdoors is not considered by many kids as place to go to spend their time. Being plugged in to a wireless device is more the trend. “I like to play indoors better, because that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” said a fourth-grader quoted in the book Last Child in the Woods, in which author Richard Louv coins the term “nature deficit disorder.”
Outdoor education takes many forms at CELC. The “outdoor education class” happens twice per week for two hours at a time. We work with environmental educators such as Ranger Russ at Meigs Point Nature Center, do a lot of hiking, letterboxing, winter skiing, work on an organic farm, kayaking, and lots more. In addition to being a time to learn and be in nature, outdoor education also incorporates physical education. Playing basketball in a gym, bowling, or doing yoga are all possible activities. We play each day, no matter what the weather – call it recess or just being outside – after noon meal, CELCers run around outdoors. They may toss a football, play guitar, or build forts in the woods.
Childhood is changing from something that once was a time of imaginary play, both indoors and out, to a time that tends toward structured activities or interacting with some form of digital media.
Yet research shows interaction with the natural environment plays an important role in children’s development, including building problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as fostering creativity. As one example, Louv points to research on attention-deficit disorder at the University of Illinois, in which exposure to nature was shown to decrease ADD symptoms. Louv calls on adults to take kids hiking and camping or go just plain encourage them to spend unstructured time outdoors. Go! Explore! That’s the cure for the disorder.
— Sally Dennen, Ecopedia
There is a Japanese practice called shinrin yoku or “woods bathing” Just spending time in the woods is believed to help relieve fatigue and stress. This practice is part of the overall Japanese philosophy of combining nature into every aspect of life to become a part of it.
Our students are eager to be outside. It is so refreshing to watch young people have time for free play. These days schools are pressured to cut recess, yet it is hard to believe that spending less time outdoors and more time sitting at a desk does anything beneficial to increase test scores or increase motivation to learn! We know that at CELC – one of the students’ favorite aspects of our program is the outdoor education component.
“The future will belong to the nature-smart — those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
— Richard Louv