Mend the Dangerous Disconnect: Kids and Nature

On average, children now spend less time outdoors than a prison inmate.

- According to studies, inmates receive at least two hours of time outside every day while most children enjoy an hour or less.

Kids planting pollinators together by USFWS Fisheries/CC BY
Kids planting pollinators together by USFWS Fisheries/CC BY

IT'S TIME WE STRIVE TO REVERSE THE DANGEROUS DISCONNECTION BETWEEN THE CHILDREN OF TODAY AND NATURE!

There is even the coined phrase "Nature Deficit Disorder" in Wikipedia to refer to the human costs of alienation from the natural world.  This alarming trend has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself.  How can we mend this growing problem?  There are many opportunities available for children to become involved with plants, gardens, or the outdoors in general.  There are opportunities at home, with school gardens, summer camps, and botanic & community gardens to name a few.

by Sarah Gilbert /CC BY
by Sarah Gilbert /CC BY

Research Shows the Benefits of a School Garden For Kids:

•  Can significantly increases science achievement scores.  In fact The National Science Teacher Association Reports: "School Gardens Grow Science Achievement Test Scores."

•  Improves environmental attitudes, especially in younger students.

DSC02218 by Growing Great /CC BY
DSC02218 by Growing Great /CC BY

• Youth gardening projects have been shown to help increase children’s self-esteem while helping them develop a sense of ownership and responsibility.

•  Instills appreciation and respect for nature that lasts into adulthood.

•  Improves life skills and social skills, including working with groups and self-understanding.

•  Increases interest in eating fruits and vegetables and improves attitude toward fruits and vegetables.

•  Increases children’s knowledge about the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables, and participants reported eating healthier snacks.  This could certainly lead to an improvement in the growing problem of childhood obesity.

SMES Butterfly Planting  by Gottfried not Bouillon/CC BY
SMES Butterfly Planting by Gottfried not Bouillon/CC BY
  • Has an overall positive impact on student achievement and behavior.  In fact, according to a University of Illinois study, interaction with nature has proven to reduce symptoms of ADD in children.

 

Gardening provides different forms of engagement for children, including:

  • Designing, planting, and maintaining gardens.
  • Harvesting, preparing, and sharing food.
  • Using all their senses while interacting with nature.
  • Working cooperatively in groups.
  • Learning about where food really comes from and gets them interested in healthy foods.
  • Learning about science and nutrition.
  • A great form of exercise for all ages!
  • Creating art and stories inspired by gardens.

*You might be surprised to know ALL the amazing range of personal, social, health and economical benefits that plants in general have on ALL our lives (read more here).  

Butterfly Planting – Day 2 by Gottfried not Bouillon /CC BY
Butterfly Planting – Day 2 by Gottfried not Bouillon /CC BY

Here are MANY online resources and local programs available to help educate and integrate gardening into children's lives:

    • The Aggie Horticulture - Just for Kids Site contains many ideas and resources for gardening with kid and how to start a school garden.
    • The National Gardening Association site is full of information for teachers and parents who garden with kids.
    • The Children & Nature Networkis leading the movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership.
    • The Junior Master Gardener program is an international youth gardening program of the university cooperative Extension network. JMG engages children in novel, “hands-on” group and individual learning experiences that provide a love of gardening, develop an appreciation for the environment, and cultivate the mind.
    • To have a school garden, you DON'T need a lot of land. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service has developed a school gardening curriculum that uses 5-gallon plastic buckets cut in half as the gardening containers for the children. This cylinder gardening program is simple, and fairly inexpensive.
    • Veggie Village is a family-friendly volunteer opportunity to garden, educate, adopt a plot and more in the community garden of the Interfaith of the Woodlands
    • Build a "Living Playhouse" outdoors using bamboo sticks or rods to create the dome, and line with plants that climb such as runner beans, or ivy.
Students of the Environmental Club at High Shoals Elementary plant vegetables in raised beds for their CSA with the help of Dean Angle, Cooperative Extension and Farmer D. Sept. 12 2011. Photos by: Andrea Gonzalez
Students of the Environmental Club at High Shoals Elementary plant vegetables in raised beds for their CSA with the help of Dean Angle, Cooperative Extension and Farmer D. Sept. 12 2011. Photos by: Andrea Gonzalez

*If you don't have a lot of outdoor space at home then you can still have porch container garden or kitchen scrap garden! Here some ideas to get you started:

The world has changed rapidly in this age of technology.  Some of these changes are good, but they have also led the youth of today to be indoors, disconnected from nature, and unaware of the basic fundamentals of human life, such as where food really comes from.

We here at Living Expression Landscapes aim to inspire everyone to get outdoors and garden!  Call us at 281-681-8715 if you would like our assistance planning an outdoor garden for you and your family to benefit from, or if you are an educator or school that would like to start a school garden!

References: http://www.peecworks.org/ ; http://www.kidsgardening.org/ ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_deficit_disorder