Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s a thing.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, referred to it when hypothesising that people, especially children, are spending less and less time outdoors than we used to. He presents studies that show their lack of time spent in the natural world resulting in negative results in behaviour and healthy development. Screen time has taken over green time and his concerns were made public in 2005. This was before the birth of social media sites, smart phones, tablets and the constant online stream of television and movies. Add over protective helicopter parents and municipal signs ordering kids to ‘stay off the grass’ and we have a generation of children who have, well...nature deficit disorder.
What is the cure for this disorder? Summer camp.
The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project is a five year study that has provided documented proof that camp does have a positive influence on the development of young people. According to findings from this research project conducted by the Canadian Camping Association’s National Research Committee, camp gives children the opportunity to be outdoors and teaches them how to live more environmentally conscious lives.
In the first phase of the project Camp Directors shared where they expected campers to experience positive outcomes. Environmental awareness was one of the five key areas observed in the study. Closely related is the area of physical activity, with most camps having outdoor pursuits and special activities taking place outdoors. In the second phase camp staff and counsellors were surveyed to see how their campers developed in the five key areas from the start of the camp session to when it finished.
Here are some of the results of the study:
- Over half the campers in the study showed improvement in learning how to protect the environment and showed development of environmentally friendly behaviours.
- Almost two-thirds of the campers showed improved attitudes towards physical activity.
- Almost 70% of the campers showed positive growth in the area of emotional intelligence and the ability to recognize and deal with their own emotions and the emotions of those around them at an age-appropriate level.
- 67% of all campers showed growth in their independence and self-confidence.
- Camp children experience a true sense of belonging. During camp friendships are made in a comfortable environment.
- Campers resolved personal conflicts in a positive manner.
- Regardless of differences, all campers experienced positive outcomes and growth and proved that camp can foster change in interpersonal and personal development in a short period of time.
In phase three of the Canadian Summer Camp Research Project parents shared that after returning home from camp their child demonstrated more environmentally friendly behaviors and they had developed more interest in outdoor activities and pursuits.
“On the first day back from overnight camp, my son said that he liked camp way more than his Wii, TV, iPod and iPad. I think that says it all!”
“My child has always been outdoorsy and creative but camp has made this even more evident”
Beyond becoming more environmentally aware and getting some healthy exercise, there are many benefits to helping children connect with nature. According by a study conducted by the Natural Learning Initiative, “outdoor learning environments stimulate the diversity of children’s play experience and contribute to their healthy development.” Engaging in outdoor play:
- Supports creativity and problem solving
- Enhances cognitive abilities
- Improves academic performances
- Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Increases physical activity
- Improves nutrition
- Improves eyesight
- Improves social relations
- Improves self discipline
- Reduces stress
"Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity," writes Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
It’s a good thing camp starts next week!