Imagine a world where an epidemic is striking children and the doors to warm homes are shut tight. Within those walls, children are plugged-in to technology.
The trees that line the vacant streets remain unclimbed as parents quickly move their children into their cars to drive them from one activity to another. No echoing laughter can be heard echoing because no children play outside.
This may sound like the introduction to a Science Fiction story, but to many kids this is a reality. Nature Deficit Disorder is becoming more and more common among children being reared in the electronic age.
Author Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder (which is not a medical disorder) in his book Last Child in the Woods to describe the psychological and physical costs of human alienation from nature.
, which was founded in 2001 by native Athenian Evan McGown, is doing all it can to get children outside and back into nature. According to their website, the goal of Wild Intelligence is to care for the earth and our children by connecting them with nature, community, and self.
Their mission is urgent. Statistics show that 67% of parents said their children spent less time outdoors than the summer before. An alarming 91% of parents blamed TV, computers, and video games for their children’s lack of interest in getting outdoors. Many developmental disorders that affect children today, such as Asperger's Syndrome or Attention Defecit Disorder, run parallel to children being kept indoors.
McGown, along with staff member Tommy Tye, leads programs for adults, children, and families who want to reconnect with nature. "We want to work with families and have adults rediscover a playfulness and a love of nature," he said. "Children look to adults, and many parents are fear-ridden and have their kids under house arrest."
He believes children are naturally curious and that it's important to get them outside to touch, build, smell, splash, dig, and play in the dirt. With programs such as their once-a-week after school program for children and the Athens Skills Club for adults, their Natural Empowerment Curriculum ranges from hazard and awareness basics to bird language and deep sensory awareness.
"Our goal has nothing to do with information, it has to do with connection," McGown said. "When children feel that connection, they will have a twinkle in their eye, their chest will puff up, and they will have an aliveness to their body."
His enthusiasm is infectious. After talking with him, I forced my boys to log off the computer, turn off the television, and scoot outside to play. Their laughter filled our quiet neighborhood and their little faces looked so happy to be covered in dirt.
For more information about The Institute of Wild Intelligence, please visit their website.
Do you feel that children are in danger of losing a connection with nature? Do your children often play outside? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.