Kids gone wild

Groups en­cour­age chil­dren to ex­pe­ri­ence the nat­u­ral world

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - NEWS - By Deborah Busemeyer

The kids sit in si­lence fac­ing away from one an­other in a cir­cle. They feel the hard­ness of the soil un­der­neath them, see birds fly­ing by, hear the wind rat­tle through the branches on the tree and smell the pine-scented air.

The school-aged chil­dren are out­side with the non­profit Arts of Na­ture, which of­fers en­vi­ron­men­tal education through off-trail ex­pe­ri­ences. They are do­ing ex­actly what Richard Louv ad­vo­cates for in his best­selling book, Last Child in the Woods: di­rectly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing na­ture. That ex­pe­ri­ence is sci­en­tif­i­cally proved to be es­sen­tial for phys­i­cal and emo­tional health, yet Louv doc­u­mented how rare it has be­come for this gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren.

“I think as a hu­man species we’ve evolved in con­stant re­la­tion­ship with our nat­u­ral sur­round­ings,” said Griet Laga, founder of Arts of Na­ture. “I be­lieve it’s es­sen­tial to who we are. I be­lieve kids who don’t have reg­u­lar con­tact with the out­doors in what­ever way they can, miss out. Stud­ies point to that. Kids per­form bet­ter aca­dem­i­cally; it’s bet­ter for their emo­tional health and bet­ter for their phys­i­cal health.”

Laga’s pro­gram and oth­ers in North­ern New Mex­ico are nur­tur­ing re­la­tion­ships with na­ture, keep­ing kids safe from “na­ture-deficit dis­or­der,” a term Louv coined to de­scribe in­door­bound, tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused kids to­day.

Arts of Na­ture par­tic­i­pants look for sto­ries in the land, iden­tify tracks, taste plants and de­ter­mine the mean­ing be­hind the

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