One of the best rock climbing areas in the Southeast is Looking Glass Rock. Rising almost 1000 feet from the forest floor, Looking Glass is a dome-shaped mass of granite near Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest. It can easily be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby. For rock climbers it offers a fantastic variety of sport, friction, face, crack and even aid climbing routes suitable for the beginning, intermediate and advanced climber. Circling the domed rock are well-known climbing areas: the Nose, South Side, Sun Wall and North Wall. On the southeastern side of the rock, there is a popular tourist trail for hiking to the summit.
Here’s a photo of a Rockbrook camper on the Nose (5.8). Rockbrook is located only about 15 miles from Looking Glass. After topping out our own climbs on Castle Rock, our camp rock climbing program brings girls to Looking Glass, as well as other climbing areas in this region of North Carolina. There’s a lot of rock to climb around here, and the girls love it!
“We have shifted our culture from one that is engaged in a healthy, interactive, imaginative way to one that is inwardly facing, sedentary and expecting things to be fed to us.” — Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center of Media and Child Health
The National Wildlife Federation has joined the ongoing discussion among educators about the importance for children of outdoor experience. In response to the drastic decline of the time modern children spend outdoors, they have launched a well-organized campaign to provide “practical tools for families, schools and communities [that] will make being outdoors a fun, healthy and automatic part of everyday life.” It’s called “Be Out There.”
The NFW reports some troubling facts. “Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).” And there are equally troubling related consequences: increased child obesity, decreased creativity, imagination, and social skills.
The benefits of outdoor experience have been well researched as well. “Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies. Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Outdoor play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression. Nature makes kids nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.” Likewise, on this blog, here for example, we’ve discussed the benefits of regular outdoor experience.
The point, of course, is that summer camp provides an excellent antidote to this modern trend. As children spend more of their time indoors isolated from nature, as they begin to show symptoms of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” outdoor camps like Rockbrook become even more important. Being outside, most if not all of the time, is one of the secrets that make summer camp so beneficial for children.
The National Wildlife Federation agrees; it’s one of the best things parents can do for their kids… turn off the screens and send them to camp!
Another article has come our way (thanks Bird!) about the value of outdoor experience for kids. It’s “Time Outdoors Gives Kids a Big Boost” by Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle. The article is about an initiative in California to recognize a “Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights,” a document declaring that every child should have certain opportunities connected to the outdoor world. It lists ten things every child should do:
1. Discover California’s past.
2. Splash in water.
3. Play in a safe place.
4. Camp under the stars.
5. Explore nature.
6. Learn to swim.
7. Play on a team.
8. Follow a trail.
9. Catch a fish.
10. Celebrate his or her heritage.
And quotes Gov. Schwarzenegger.
“Parents could start by applying the lessons to themselves and sharing the outdoor experiences with their children… I believe that learning outdoor skills should be a required class.”
The connections here to summer camp, of course, are strong. After all, it’s what camp does every day— we splash, play, climb, camp out, explore and discover, celebrate and learn… all in the context of being outside. It would be great to see some of this implemented in schools, but at the very least, we know that camp is a great start.
Richard Louv, who we’ve mentioned before, has published a new and interesting article discussing the benefits of outdoor play, the problems caused when it’s neglected, and what we might do to encourage it. The article is in the March-April 2007 issue of Orion magazine, and is entitled “Leave No Child Inside” (link to the full article). Louv has no trouble documenting an overall decline in the amount of time American kids spend outside, and likewise the numerous problems associated with this “virtual house arrest” (“threats to their independent judgment and value of place, to their ability to feel awe and wonder, to their sense of stewardship for the Earth—and, most immediately, threats to their psychological and physical health”).
Despite the forces behind this “nature-deficit disorder” (“disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television, smart phones and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures”), Louv also finds a “growing movement to reconnect children and nature.” What’s crucial here is the positive childhood experience of nature most of us adults share and recall fondly. No matter what our current profession, level of income, or political views, we love those experiences… turning over rocks in the stream, hiking through tall ferns, catching a glimpse of a hawk overhead… and we want our children to have them too.
Louv’s point is that with this kind of broad agreement on an issue, we should be able to do something about it. There’s power to this movement because “no one among us wants to be a member of the last generation to pass on to its children the joy of playing outside in nature.”