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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Cover

ISBN13: 9781565126053
ISBN10: 156512605x
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

One evening when my boys were younger, Matthew, then ten, looked at me from across a restaurant table and said quite seriously, “Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?”

I asked what he meant.

“Well, youre always talking about your woods and tree houses, and how you used to ride that horse down near the swamp.”

At first, I thought he was irritated with me. I had, in fact, been telling him what it was like to use string and pieces of liver to catch crawdads in a creek, something Id be hard-pressed to find a child doing these days. Like many parents, I do tend to romanticize my own childhood— and, I fear, too readily discount my childrens experiences of play and adventure. But my son was serious; he felt he had missed out on something important.

He was right. Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.

Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment— but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. Thats exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child.

As a boy, I was unaware that my woods were ecologically connected with any other forests. Nobody in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my fields; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt paths. I wandered those woods even in my dreams. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.

This book explores the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change. It also describes the accumulating research that reveals the necessity of contact with nature for healthy child—and adult—development.

While I pay particular attention to children, my focus is also on those Americans born during the past two to three decades. The shift in our relationship to the natural world is startling, even in settings that one would assume are devoted to nature. Not that long ago, summer camp was a place where you camped, hiked in the woods, learned about plants and animals, or told firelight stories about ghosts or mountain lions. As likely as not today, “summer camp” is a weight-loss camp, or a computer camp. For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear —to ignore. A recent television ad depicts a four-wheel-drive SUV racing along a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream—while in the backseat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen, oblivious to the landscape and water beyond the windows.

A century ago, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner announced that the American frontier had ended. His thesis has been discussed and debated ever since. Today, a similar and more important line is being crossed.

Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature. That lesson is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors, and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities. Our institutions, urban/suburban design, and cultural attitudes unconsciously associate nature with doom—while disassociating the outdoors from joy and solitude. Wellmeaning public-school systems, media, and parents are effectively scaring children straight out of the woods and fields. In the patent-or-perish environment of higher education, we see the death of natural history as the more hands-on disciplines, such as zoology, give way to more theoretical and remunerative microbiology and genetic engineering. Rapidly advancing technologies are blurring the lines between humans, other animals, and machines. The postmodern notion that reality is only a construct—that we are what we program—suggests limitless human possibilities; but as the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience.

Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature— in positive ways. Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies. As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.

Reducing that deficit—healing the broken bond between our young and nature—is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. The health of the earth is at stake as well. How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives. The following pages explore an alternative path to the future, including some of the most innovative environment-based school programs; a reimagining and redesign of the urban environment—what one theorist calls the coming “zoopolis”; ways of addressing the challenges besetting environmental groups; and ways that faith-based organizations can help reclaim nature as part of the spiritual development of children. Parents, children, grandparents, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, and researchers from across the nation speak in these pages. They recognize the transformation that is occurring. Some of them paint another future, in which children and nature are reunited— and the natural world is more deeply valued and protected.

During the research for this book, I was encouraged to find that many people now of college age—those who belong to the first generation to grow up in a largely de-natured environment—have tasted just enough nature to intuitively understand what they have missed. This yearning is a source of power. These young people resist the rapid slide from the real to the virtual, from the mountains to the Matrix. They do not intend to be the last children in the woods.

My sons may yet experience what author Bill McKibben has called “the end of nature,” the final sadness of a world where there is no escaping man. But there is another possibility: not the end of nature, but the rebirth of wonder and even joy. Jacksons obituary for the American frontier was only partly accurate: one frontier did disappear, but a second one followed, in which Americans romanticized, exploited, protected, and destroyed nature. Now that frontier—which existed in the family farm, the woods at the end of the road, the national parks, and in our hearts—is itself disappearing or changing beyond recognition.

But, as before, one relationship with nature can evolve into another. This book is about the end of that earlier time, but it is also about a new frontier—a better way to live with nature.

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

SM4, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by SM4)
What an eye-opening book on why children and youth need nature to help them to be creative, healthy and better concentration for school and work. I love in section 16 when the author mentioned how natural education in the schools help students be better in school, good peer relationships, and other benefits. Louv discovered Portland's Environmental Middle School and said about the school as "teachers employ a curriculum using local rivers, mountains, and forests; among other activities, they plant native species and study the Willamette River. At that school, 96 percent of students meet or exceed state standards for math problem-solving--compared to only 65 percent of eight-graders at comparable middle schools" (p.207-8).
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Britton Gildersleeve, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by Britton Gildersleeve)
Every parent, teacher and school admin should read this. So should the rest of America. Louv makes an eloquent case for why America's children are victims of Nature Deficit Disorder. He convinced me ~
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Britton Gildersleeve, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by Britton Gildersleeve)
Every parent, teacher and school admin should read this. So should the rest of America. Louv makes an eloquent case for why America's children are victims of Nature Deficit Disorder. He convinced me ~
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781565126053
Author:
Louv, Richard
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Author:
Hoffmeister, Peter B.
Author:
Hoffmeister, Peter Brown
Author:
Cuff, Marcie Chambers
Subject:
Parenting - General
Subject:
General
Subject:
Psychotherapy - Child & Adolescent
Subject:
Parenting
Subject:
Nature - General
Subject:
Child Development
Subject:
Nature
Subject:
Psychological aspects
Subject:
Nature -- Psychological aspects.
Subject:
Children and the environment
Subject:
Child Care and Parenting-General
Subject:
Creativity
Subject:
FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Child Development
Subject:
Nature Studies-General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20080431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
line drawings throughout
Pages:
390
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects


Children's » General
Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » General
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Home and Garden » Gardening » Gardening for Children
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Natural History » General

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 390 pages Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - English 9781565126053 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , “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.

"Synopsis" by ,
“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
 
Now includes
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
"Synopsis" by ,
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.

and#160;

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