Nurture the natural path to healthier, happier and smarter lives
As I See It
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Media contact: Chairman Rodney Barreto
School is out, and parents everywhere are looking
for fun things to do with their children. I suspect most would be
delighted if those summer activities also encouraged healthier,
happier and even smarter lifestyles. When Richard Louv published
his book "Last Child in the Woods - Saving Our Children from
Nature-Deficit Disorder" in 2005, it helped spur a global movement
led by the Children and Nature Network to accomplish just that.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) works to provide opportunities all across the
state to be sure that Florida is in the forefront of the move to
reconnect children with nature. FWC provides summer camps and
other nature-based activities at facilities such as the Beau Turner
Youth Conservation Center, Joe Budd Aquatic Education Center, the
Ocala Outdoor Adventure Camp, Tenoroc Fish Management Area,
Chinsegut Nature Center and the Everglades Youth Conservation
The FWC is working to tie these programs together
and make major capital improvements on these facilities through the
Florida Youth Conservation Center Network (MyFWC.com/Youth).
Recently, we hosted a "Creating the Next Generation that Cares" day
at the Capitol to share with legislators, school groups and
visitors information on the variety of ways the FWC strives to
ensure Floridians care about and enjoy our natural resources - in
many of the same ways that our forebears did - and thus preserve
our sporting heritage. Fishing- and hunting-license dollars support
these efforts, as do voluntary donations made to youth fishing and
hunting programs, when anglers and hunters choose to contribute
while buying their license (MyFWC.com/License).
In the Sunshine State, the Get Outdoors Florida!
Coalition (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org) chaired by an FWC
employee and actively supported by the agency, is not only part of
the Children and Nature Network but also intricately tied to the
evolving Florida Youth Conservation Center Network. Get
Outdoors Florida! works with local, state and federal agencies, as
well as universities, nonprofit organizations and businesses to
engage communities in active nature-based recreation.
This effort includes not only the state's land and
water management agencies, but also the departments of Education
and Health to ensure we take a holistic approach with our education
and outreach efforts to get more Floridians actively involved in
traditional outdoor recreation, from fishing and hunting to
paddling and bird watching. The research, compiled by Louv and
since expanded on by the Children and Nature Network, compellingly
demonstrates that individuals and families engaged in active
nature-based recreation tend to be healthier, happier and
Healthier: The Let's Move Outside
website suggests, "Kids need at least 60 minutes of active and
vigorous play each day, and one of the easiest and most enjoyable
ways to meet this goal is by playing outside." Having fun
doesn't seem like a steep price to pay to be healthier and reduce
weight problems, associated diseases like diabetes and heart
problems, and attention deficit disorder.
Happier: I won't bother going to
the research for this one, just watch their smiles as children
catch their first fish, chase a lightening bug or climb a tree.
Smarter: Dr. Stephen Kellert, Yale
University, found that "play in nature, particularly during the
critical period of middle childhood, appears to be an especially
important time for developing the capacities for creativity,
problem-solving, and emotional and intellectual development."
Andrea Faber Taylor's research at the University of Illinois
suggests the brain uses two forms of attention: "directed"
attention for concentrated thinking; and "involuntary" attention,
when we're distracted by things like running water, a beautiful
sunset or watching a turtle slip into the water from a fallen log.
Directed attention is limited, so hours in front of a computer or
playing video games leave us fatigued. Whereas time spent in
natural settings activates involuntary attention, giving the brain
time to rest and resulting in enhanced performance at school and
June is full of opportunities and events to
experience with your family. In fact, President Barack Obama, as
did his predecessor, designated it Great Outdoors Month. The
president went further and launched America's Great Outdoors
Initiative (www.DOI.gov/AmericasGreatOutdoors), and First
Lady Michelle Obama joined in with the launch of Let's Move Outside
(www.LetsMove.gov/Outside), an effort to combat
Moreover, National Get Outdoors Day is Saturday,
June 12 (www.NationalGetOutdoorsDay.org), which
coincides with National Marina Day, while the whole week of June 5
-13 is National Fishing and Boating Week (www.TakeMeFishing.org). The Great American
Backyard Campout is June 26 (www.BeOutThere.org).
So give yourself and the family an excuse to get
out and enjoy nature this summer.
As David Sobel said, "Give children a chance to
love the earth before we ask them to save it."