March 26, 2006

What happens when kids go outdoors

They grow up to care about the environment, maybe.

"Although domesticated nature activities -- caring for plants and gardens -- also have a positive relationship to adult environment attitudes, their effects aren't as strong as participating in such wild nature activities as camping, playing in the woods, hiking, walking, fishing and hunting," said environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

I saw this study referenced on a listserv a couple of weeks ago and wanted to blog it, but I had too much else going on. Jonathan Hanson did blog it and commented appropriately.

Interestingly, when I went Googling the Cornell University web site, looking for it, using the keywords "children outdoors," what I found was quite the opposite. You would think that the outdoors is such a dangerous place that kids should be chained the television. There were articles about Lyme disease, of course, and about asthma and skin cancer. Plus heat stroke, poisonings, hypothermia, and pesticides. The outdoors is clearly way too scary for kids.

On a related note, I served as a judge this month for the local History Day competition (link goes to CU-Boulder), where students from area schools prepare individual and group presentations (4th graders doing PowerPoint--with adult help--is that good?).

In the "senior group" category, we gave the prize to three guys who had put together a tri-fold poster exhibit, plus bibligraphy and "process paper" as specified, on the Ludlow Massacre, a major event in Colorado labor history.

In discussing their work, I discovered that none of them had actually visited the site to walk the ground and to think that the miners' tents were here, the militia's machine guns up there, and so on.

It's only a bit more than an hour south of Pueblo. Surely one of them had a car. Saturday road trip, anybody?

"Remember," I said, "the ground is a primary source. Your feet are a primary source."

I hope they remember that. Or they can just look at Web sites.


Trailhead said...

I'm fascinated by the results of your Google search, and I've found that your impressions match my practical experience. We hike, backpack and kayak with our three-year-old, and you'd think from others' reactions that I'm letting him play in the middle of a four-lane highway. I'm always trying to get our friends to join us in the outdoors with their own kids, but it usually takes some persuasion.

I've been lurking here for a few days, and I'm enjoying this blog a lot! I hope you don't mind if I link to this post on my own site.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Feel free to make all the links you like.