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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorderby Richard Louv
Synopses & Reviews
"I like to play indoors better — cause that's where all the electrical outlets are," reports a fourth grader. But it's not only computers, television, and video games that are keeping kids inside. It's also their parents' fears of traffic, strangers, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus; their schools' emphasis on more and more homework; their structured schedules; and their lack of access to natural areas. Local governments, neighborhood associations, and even organizations devoted to the outdoors are placing legal and regulatory constraints on many wild spaces, sometimes making natural play a crime.
As children's connections to nature diminish and the social, psychological, and spiritual implications become apparent, new research shows that nature can offer powerful therapy for such maladies as depression, obesity, and attentiondeficit disorder. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade-point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that childhood experiences in nature stimulate creativity.
In Last Child in the Woods, Louv talks with parents, children, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, child-development researchers, and environmentalists who recognize the threat and offer solutions. Louv shows us an alternative future, one in which parents help their kids experience the natural world more deeply — and find the joy of family connectedness in the process.
"In these strident times, Richard Louv's unabashed romanticism echoes another era. His new book...is filled with the bygone voices of such nature singers as Wordsworth, Thoreau, Whitman and Frost. " San Diego Union-Tribune
"Teachers and parents will find value in this book. Environmentalists, not a child-enamored bunch, should pay attention, too." Cleveland Plain Dealer
In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation — he calls it nature-deficit — to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond — and they are right in our own backyard.
"I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are," reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in--and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation--he calls it nature deficit--to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression.
Some startling facts: By the 1990s the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community. The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind.
Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they're right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development--physical, emotional, and spiritual. What's more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Even creativity is stimulated by childhood experiences in nature.
Yet sending kids outside to play is increasingly difficult. Computers, television, and video games compete for their time, of course, but it's also our fears of traffic, strangers, even virus-carrying mosquitoes--fears the media exploit--that keep children indoors. Meanwhile, schools assign more and more homework, and there is less and less access to natural areas.
Parents have the power to ensure that their daughter or son will not be the "last child in the woods," and this book is the first step toward that nature-child reunion.
About the Author
Richard Louv has been a columnist and member of the advisory board for Parents magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is an adviser to the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World award program and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. He founded Connect for Kids, the largest child advocacy Web site. He writes a column for the San Diego Union-Tribune and is the author of six books.
Table of Contents
Part I : The New Relationship Between Children and Nature
1. Gifts of Nature . . . . 7
2. The Third Frontier . . . . . . 15
3. The Criminalization of Natural Play . . . . . 27
Part II:Why the Young (and the Rest of Us) Need Nature
4. Climbing the Tree of Health . .. 39
5. A Life of the Senses: Nature vs. the Know-It-All State of Mind . . . . . 54
6. The “Eighth Intelligence” . . . 70
7. The Genius of Childhood: How Nature Nurtures Creativity . . .. 85
8. Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Restorative Environment . . . 98
Part III: The Best of Intentions: Why Johnnie and Jeannie Don’t Play Outside Anymore
9. Time and Fear .. . . 115
10. The Bogeyman Syndrome Redux . . . . . 123
11. Don’t Know Much About Natural History: Education as a Barrier to Nature .. 132
12. Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From? . . . 145
Part IV: The Nature-Child Reunion
13. Bringing Nature Home . . . 161
14. Scared Smart: Facing the Bogeyman . . . . 176
15. Telling Turtle Tales: Using Nature as a Moral Teacher . 187
Part V: The Jungle Blackboard
16. Natural School Reform . . . 201
17. Camp Revival . . . 223
Part VI: Wonder Land: Opening the Fourth Frontier
18. The Education of Judge Thatcher: Decriminalizing Natural Play . .. 233
19. Cities Gone Wild . .. 239
20. Where the Wild Things Will Be: A New Back-to-the-Land Movement . . . . 265
Part VII: To Be Amazed
21. The Spiritual Necessity of Nature for the Young . . . . . . 285
22. Fire and Fermentation: Building a Movement . . . . 301
23. While It Lasts . . . . 309
Suggested Reading 321
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