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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. 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.
“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.
“The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.” —Richard Louv, from the new edition
In his landmark work Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv brought together cutting-edge studies that pointed to direct exposure to nature as essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. Now this new edition updates the growing body of evidence linking the lack of nature in children’s lives and the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Louv’s message has galvanized an international back-to-nature campaign to “Leave No Child Inside.” His book will change the way you think about our future and the future of our children.
“[The] national movement to ‘leave no child inside’ . . . has been the focus of Capitol Hill hearings, state legislative action, grass-roots projects, a U.S. Forest Service initiative to get more children into the woods and a national effort to promote a ‘green hour’ in each day. . . . The increased activism has been partly inspired by a best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, and its author, Richard Louv.” —The Washington Post
“Last Child in the Woods, which describes a generation so plugged into electronic diversions that it has lost its connection to the natural world, is helping drive a movement quickly flourishing across the nation.” —The Nation’s Health
“This book is an absolute must-read for parents.” —The Boston Globe
A Field Guide with 100 Practical Actions We Can Take
Discussion Points for Book Groups, Classrooms, and Communities
Additional Notes by the Author
New and Updated Research from the U.S. and Abroad
At no time in human history have we been more disconnected with what lies outside our front doors. Within just a century, our relationship with our surroundings has transformed from one of exploration to one of disassociation. In This Book Was a Tree, science teacher Marcie Cuff issues a call for a new era of pioneersand#151;not leathery, backwoods deerskin-wearing salt pork and hominy pioneers, but strong-minded, clever, crafty, mudpie-making, fort-building individuals committed to examining the natural world and deciphering natureand#8217;s perplexing puzzles.
Within each chapter, readers will discover a principle for reconnecting with the natural world around them, from learning to be still to discovering the importance of giving back. With a mix of science and hands-on crafts and activities, readers will be encouraged to brainstorm, imagine, and understand the world as inventive scientistsand#151;to touch, collect, document, sketch, decode, analyze, experiment, unravel, interpret, compare, and reflect.
About the Author
RICHARD LOUV, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, has written for national publications, including theNew York Times, the Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor, and has appeared on Good Morning America, Today, and NPRand#8217;s Fresh Airand Talk of the Nation. He is the author of seven books about family, nature, and community.
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 Dont Play Outside Anymore
9. Time and Fear .. . . 115
10. The Bogeyman Syndrome Redux . . . . . 123
11. Dont 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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