Many of us have joyous memories from childhood of a special place that was full of discovery, imagination and wonder. For most of us, that place was an outdoor setting which provided experiences that sharpened our senses, inspired discovery, and built a foundation for understanding the natural sciences.
Sadly, today’s children have less time than ever before for creative play and learning in nature. As the trend away from outdoor play and learning deepens, we are witnessing adverse impacts to children’s health and well-being. Additionally, this youngest generation is missing out on critical experiences that lay the foundation for future stewardship of our natural resources. It is important for children to get outside to learn about the environment they are living in.
Richard Louv (2005) defined the term "nature deficit disorder" to describe the negative consequences that have resulted from more children having less contact with the natural world, including attention disorders, obesity and depression. He cites many positive benefits of frequent outdoor experiences that can foster happier, healthier, smarter, and better adjusted children and can create future stewards of the environment. Rachel and Stephen Kaplan (1989) have linked contact with nature to restored attention, recovery from mental fatigue, and enhanced mental focus. Similarly, older adults who spend longer durations of time in natural settings show reduced blood pressure (Orsega-Smith et al., 2004) and walkable green space is associated with greater longevity (Takano et al., 2002).
In 2013, the American Public Health Association (APHA), adopted a policy statement titled “Improving Health and Wellness through Access to Nature.” To aid in promoting healthy and active lifestyles, the APHA encourages access to natural areas for residents of all ages, abilities and income levels. We believe that environmental stewardship is a critically important part of sustainability. We believe that bringing school children and adults outdoors and helping them to fall in love with the outdoors will result in a next generation ready and willing to be good stewards of the natural resources of our local community specifically and the Great Lakes region generally.