An oceanographer’s blog mentions “Last Child in the Woods” and discusses an issue we got into here last week:
Wilderness is in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t necessarily take a visit to a Yosemite to launch an appreciation of nature. I’ve had the pleasure of learning this while working with urban youth over the years, most recently in San Francisco’s Mission District. Many of the District’s children live only 15 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, yet have never seen it. A particularly memorable example of this occurred on an outing where I was able to find funds to get a few Mission elementary classes to Ocean Beach for a science field trip. After unloading the kids from the N Judah MUNI ride (my apologies to all the passengers who endured that loud commute), one of the students grabbed my arm, pointed at the Pacific Ocean and excitedly exclaimed, “Teacher! What’s that lake called?!”
A commenter makes an interesting riposte:
I get my kids out as often as I can. One problem is that their peers tell them it’s WEIRD. They don’t understand walking around parks, looking at animals besides their pet fish and their cats and dogs, or looking for animals in the wild when they have some perfectly good “wild” animals in the zoo (which most kids see once a year or so on school field trips)
It’s kinda hard for my girls, who want to go out and see wild coyotes, when a lot of people here take them for granted, or even talking about going to Sandia Cave or out into the desert… all the kids want to know is what kind of food there is.
Of course, once they GET somewhere they’re excited. But with all the negative peer input it’s getting harder and harder to get them into the car.
The owner of the blog suggests we need “some kind of green Harry Potter, ” that is, a charismatic figure who can tell kids it’s cool to want to do outdoors stuff.
While we’re on the subject, this column in the Contra Costa Times mentions an Outdoor Bill of Rights for kids.
The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights does not carry the force of law. It’s more of a gentle nudge. The idea is to encourage parents and children to explore California’s abundant cultural and natural resources, and give them some ideas to help them along. It’s hoped that the result will be a healthier, happier lifestyle for all.
So what’s on the list? The bill recommends that by high school age, all California children should have the opportunity to:
Discover California’s past Splash in the water Play in a safe place Camp under the stars Explore nature Learn to swim Play on a
Follow a trail Catch a fish Celebrate their heritage
Well, I played on teams but was so terrible at it that I was probably more psychologically scarred than uplifted by the experience, but the rest sound fine.
The situation has caused great concern among parents, educators and physicians, many of whom believe the epidemic of childhood obesity in America is a direct result of the lack of outdoor activity.
Environmentalists are worried that the next generation won’t give a hoot about the spotted owl or other species. Others foresee trouble if children continue to be deprived of the many physical and psychological benefits that studies have shown nature and the outdoors provide.
A nationwide movement has begun to try to reverse the trend and, in many ways, California is leading the way.
See, all the cool stuff happens in California first. Though I can’t help recalling the first McDonald’s was in California, too.