TPWD News Release — Feb. 18, 2008
AUSTIN, Texas — The March cover story in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine offers 50 simple, fun ways for children and families to reconnect with the natural world. But it tracks a growing body of books and studies that reveal a serious mental, emotional, physical and educational issue: today’s kids are losing touch with nature.
"Kids don’t develop a relationship with nature by watching it on the Discovery Channel," begins the article. "They need to feel the wind, smell leaves and wildflowers, run their fingers over rocks and make personal contact with other living things. Pristine wilderness is not required: Ask any of today’s dedicated outdoorsmen, and you may find that his favorite childhood memory involves a backyard tree house or fishing in an irrigation canal. Encourage children to get outside wherever they can, as often as possible, and start building their own memories."
Simplicity is the beauty of the 50 Ways to Get Kids Hooked on the Outdoors article. Captured in brief paragraphs, most of the 50 Ways don’t cost anything, don’t require advance reservations and don’t necessitate loading the family car with equipment. Many can be done in the backyard or down the block, things like Walk in the Rain, Go Barefoot, Make Mudpies or Watch Fireflies. But implicit in the 50 Ways is a continuum of natural experience, starting with simple things and building to more ambitious and richer activities. It’s a menu to pick from with something for everyone.
The article ends with references to book and Web resources for families to take things to the next level. First on the list is Richard Louv’s groundbreaking Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. This book rocked the wildlife conservation world and reverberated on through child health and education and many other circles when it came out in 2006. A new edition is due out this spring that adds a user’s guide for parents and grandparents. It carries a message of hope, but it also reviews a growing body of research that link the nature-deficit problem to issues like childhood obesity, educational and developmental challenges and other ills.
Louv’s book and tireless speaking schedule have spawned a nationwide movement called No Child Left Inside. The Children and Nature Network is bringing politicians, pediatricians, educators, architects, environmentalists, wildlife scientists and an astounding diversity of others into an expanding circle of supporters. For example, car manufacturer Subaru recently devoted the cover of its quarterly magazine Drive to promoting the children and nature movement. Policy-makers in Connecticut, New Mexico, California and Washington have created programs and legislation encouraging outdoor time for school children. The Environmental Alliance of New Mexico is proposing the Leave No Child Inside Act, which would generate revenue for an outdoor educational programming through a 1 percent tax on new TVs and video games.
In the Lone Star State, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department partnered with advertising agency GSD&M, which worked pro bono to create an initiative called Life’s Better Outside, motivating urban parents to make time to enjoy state parks and other outdoor activities with their children. Print ads, radio spots and billboards ran in support of this effort beginning in 2005, with the headline "Do Whatever It Takes to Get Your Kids Outside." Under the Life’s Better Outside brand, TPWD promotes its many outdoor recreation and education programs. For example, the department partners with city parks to offer Outdoor Family weekend workshops where parents and kids learn to pitch tents, cook over campfires and reconnect with nature.
The Children and Nature movement is also gathering steam in Texas, where The Conservation Fund, Houston Mayor Bill White and others are involved in a national fundraising effort to support the cause. Also, the Texas Pediatrics Society has developed a Childhood Obesity Toolkit for health care providers. The toolkit encourages limiting the time children spend on TV, video games, and computers and promoting physical activity, including a "healthy lifestyle prescription" that recommends one hour of outdoor play every day.
Meanwhile, the 50 Ways article offers a simple place for families to get started. The March issue of TPW magazine is available on newsstands at most major retailers. Anyone can also visit the magazine Web site to order a copy of the issue or see the article, or subscribe to the magazine online or by phoning (800) 937-9393.
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