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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Episode 58 (Epilogue): Children and Nature

Tonight’s show focused on the importance of the relationship between children and nature, the ways in which many children in our country are disconnected from nature, and what parents can do to foster a greater connection with nature in their children. We remind listeners that tonight’s show is an interactive episode, and that next week, Tuesday November 13th at 6:30 PM, we will be showing Mother Nature’s Child- Growing Outdoors in the Media Age, as part of WSLRs “Let’s Talk Series.”

Our guests tonight were Tim Seldin, Lourna McGrath , and Liz Sniegocki . Tim Seldin is the President of the Montessori Foundation  and Chair of the International Montessori Council, with almost 40 years of experience as a Montessori educator. Lourna McGrath has been working the educational field since 1974, and has been a Montessori teacher since 1991. Lourna is currently the Associate Head of the New Gate School. Liz is a freelance writer and advocate of natural and mindful living, including on her own blog Natural Nester. Liz also teaches a creative workshop for adults called “Keeping a Nature Journal- Journaling  through the Seasons.”  

We first spoke to Tim and Lourna about their careers in education and the changes which have taken place in children’s connection to nature both inside of and outside of their educational lives. Lourna discussed a cultural fear of letting kids go out on their own, and the huge change that this has caused in the way that children play and go outside.  Both Tim and Lourna talked with us about the ways in which nature has been removed from most children’s education, especially with growing focus on standardized testing and the heavy structuring of children’s schedule through planned extra circulars. We discussed the issues between free play and structured physical activities, highlighting children’s need not just to be outside in nature, but also to relinquish some of the constant supervision and structure.  Lourna discussed children’s need to down time, in order to process their days and relax without expectation, something which she noted is becoming more difficult with over scheduling. Tim also discussed the need for complex relationships, highlighting the way in which planned extra circulars and a reliance of technological communication outside of school and these activities fosters superficial relationships among children.

            The guests also offered some suggestions for how to help children foster a greater connection with nature. Lourna discussed the importance of allowing nature back into schools, highlight the importance of projects like containers gardens and bird watching in urban areas where educators may not feel like they can provide “nature.” She also focused on the need for parents to get out and do thing with their children. Tim suggested Earth Box, a ready to go gardening systems, recommended the book The After Dinner Gardening Book and extoled the virtues teaching children to grow some of their own food. He also suggested that parents take their children to buy food, particularly from places like farms and farmers markets, to teach children about where good come from. Finally he suggested family “nature museums” where parents encourage children to learn about nature with them in order to spend more time in and connect with nature.

            Next Liz talked to us about her own experiences with nature as a child, and the importance that it had to her growing up. Liz emphasized the importance that leading by example has when raising her own children, and the importance of being active and sharing individual passions with children. Our guests also emphasized the importance of not forcing children to grow up to fast, including separating children from media in order to remove pressure due to rigid media images and also to promote healthy development. Tim noted that while directing children away from media overstimulation may be difficult, it is necessary. Liz and Tim highlighted the importance of limits on media, and Liz discussed the ways in which setting these limits early and providing outdoor opportunities makes this process easier for parents. Lourna highlighted the fact the being against inappropriate and overextended uses of technology does not mean being against technology as a whole, an important fact for parents to remember.  Cheryl discussed the importance of trusting your children and removing unnecessary fear so that children can play more freely. All the guests also argued from the importance of connecting children to nature so that they can realize the importance of taking care of our planet.

            Liz talked to us about her nature class, and the importance of fostering parents connection to nature so that they can better do so for their own children. She talked about the act of journaling with children, encouraging them to use their sense to begin journaling and to help them connect to larger question that children may have about the environment around them. Liz also talked about her own families celebration of different seasons, and how this helps them to connect to nature and the yearly changes that go on within nature. Lourna discussed some of the ways in which her school helps children to connect to nature, including the utilization of a nature cabinet and the practice of flower dissection in order to directly teach children about nature. 

The Nature Conservancy's Nature Rocks program aims to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature. Our mission is to make it easy for you to have fun in nature, and connect with others to do the same. We want all families to see for themselves how much Nature Rocks. Your kids will be happier, healthier and smarter, and besides, it is generally free and a rockin’ way to create and share fun quality family time. To check out the program, visit www.NatureRocks.ORG there you will find a variety of fabulous resources, like their free downloadable PDF of seasonal Nature Activities, searchable activities by age and location area, events, and local places to find nature. They also have amazing extras… anything from a treasure hunt to nature photography tips.

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