Children Need Nature

Children swimming in natureDo you know about the North Carolina Children and Nature Coalition? It’s based in Asheboro, NC and is a non-profit organization dedicated to reconnecting children with nature. In response to the growing evidence documenting the benefits children gain from playing outside, benefits we have discussed here and here, this group strives to keep people informed through its web site, publications, conferences, and public policy initiatives.

Of course, Rockbrook fully supports this mission. Camp life is immersed in the natural world, offering a daily celebration of its wonders and hidden beauty. Every minute, as children newly experience nature at camp, they are inspired to grow more confident, cooperative, and compassionate.

The NC Children and Nature Coalition and other state-wide environmental education organizations have launched a campaign to establish a “Children’s Bill of Rights,” a formal recognition that children need and deserve outdoor experience. They put it like this.

Every North Carolina child should have the opportunity to discover, explore and connect with natural spaces and wild places close to home, in neighborhoods and cities in North Carolina, from the mountains to the sea by:

  1. Playing in a safe place outdoors,
  2. Camping under the stars, learning to swim, riding a bike,
  3. Using their senses to experience the natural world,
  4. Visiting a farm, seeing how food is grown, growing something,
  5. Exploring a stream, splashing in a wave, catching a fish, stomping in a puddle, playing in the mud,
  6. Hiking in a natural area and following a trail,
  7. Rolling in the grass, playing in the sand, climbing a tree or searching under a log,
  8. Sharing nature with a parent, guardian, mentor, teacher or environmental educator, and visiting a zoo, aquarium or environmental education center.

Sounds a lot like camp!

To Raise a Humane Child

Our friend Tom Rosenberg at Blue Star Camps recently turned us on to Zoe Weil, the author of several books on “Humane Education” and the president of the Institute for Humane Education. He quite rightly claimed that the experience of camp is a powerful and effective way to bolster this kind of education for children. But what makes education “humane?”

Camp Counselor teaches children to be human

Looking at the Institute’s Web site, you find “Humane Education” instills:

the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity, and wisdom, but also provides the knowledge and tools to put our values into action in meaningful, far-reaching ways.

Humane education aims to inspire children to be curious, creative and thoughtful in their approach to the world, and thereby fosters a kind of warmth and sensitivity whereby they can be better problem solvers, help others, and lead more meaningful lives. The Institute has developed a body of lesson plans, books, videos and articles to help educators incorporate these goals and principles.

Much of this revolves around the notion of community and that’s why camp is so well suited to encourage humane education. Coming to Rockbrook means joining a close-knit community where campers and counselors alike agree to cooperate and respect each other. We live together in cabins, share chores, resolve disagreements, and experience firsthand the importance of honest communication. It’s the power of community that heightens our awareness and inspires humane values while at camp.

Most children experience far too little humane education and as a result fail to respond to many of the issues and challenges of our day. Camp can be one way to help raise a humane child. It can be a real lesson in community, in compassion, and in respect. We already knew camp was a special experience; now we know another reason why.

Zoe Weil doesn’t mention camp, but you can get a great sense of what she’s doing from this TED talk.

Children and Nature

Girls hands holding leaves in nature

We’ve talked about Richard Louv before, here and here, but I just found this video of him discussing the importance of nature for children.  It’s a short introduction to Louv’s notion of “Nature Deficit Disorder.”  Check it out!

Camp — A place for girls to grow

Weaver Baskets at Summer CampBack in 1998, Kellogg’s produced a television commercial that, quite unintentionally, reminds us why a girl’s time at summer camp can be so valuable, why it really can fuel tremendous personal growth. The commercial shows a little boy reciting a “declaration” of sorts about what children need.

“We the children need the following:
We need encouragement.
We need to laugh.
We need inspiration.
We need to be read to.
We need to have self-esteem,
Love and security,
Adventure,
Discipline and Freedom.
We need to make mistakes,
Ask questions,
To imagine.
We need to win,
And sometimes we need to lose.
We need to be hugged.
We need family, friends and even foes,
And heroes.
We need nourishment.”

It’s just amazing how camp is one of those unique places that provides almost all of these ingredients. With its wide ranging program of activities, caring staff members, traditions and overall philosophy, summer camp satisfies these needs for children. We’ve often said it at Rockbrook; “camp is a place for girls to grow.”

Here’s the commercial.

Outdoor Programs for Girls

Outdoor Girls at Summer CampThere’s something really special about spending most of your time outdoors. When you’re a girl who goes to school all day, rides around in a car between things, and maybe lives where the weather is a little “tough” most of the time, it’s a rare thing to be outside. Because it’s so rare, it feels so liberating to have regular outdoor experience, to romp through a stream, feel a warm breeze, hear the sharp clap of thunder, get muddy 🙂 and just plain explore all the wonders of nature.

There’s a lot to say about how this time outdoors is extraordinarily good for us, but it’s perfectly fun too. Summer camp, of course, is one of the best places to find all this. It’s a place where you can recharge and balance out what we’ve been missing most of the year. Just thinking about it, makes us smile with anticipation!