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1 Taking Steps Towards Eliminating the Nature‐Deficit Disorder in our Community Ivonne Garcia May 8, 2009 Smith College EVS300 2Abstract There is a disorder targeting today’s youth with no vaccination or technological advancement to provide a cure. Instead, treatment is freely lying outside the confines of buildings and in the prairies, forests, and mountains of the Earth. The nature‐deficit disorder is a national trend showing up in children, demonstrating a decreasing exposure to nature. With the creation of the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007, a fuse of organizations, institutions, and agencies are demanding attention and action from the government in order to bridge the environmental education gap prevalent in today’s public schools. With the knowledge, power and background of students engaged in higher education, the movement to reduce the disorder in younger generations can be carried out in local communities, especially college towns. My project attempts to address this issue in Northampton by strengthening the partnership between Smith students and the young students at the Campus School through the planning of a couple of outdoor events. Though the actual events were unable to take place, I was able acquire recommendations for the existence of similar events for the future. Introduction When compared to the youth of today, yesterday’s generations were thought to have embraced all that nature had to offer. Back then, children climbed trees and went fishing with their fathers. They grew up with a spiritual connection to the forest, and then learned to fight for the wilderness regions of the world. They also grew old with the expectation that they would pass that love on to their children, and they to their children’s children. That was the plan. But somewhere after the 31980’s, a disconnection between the natural environmental and children began to formulate (Louv, 2008). Children began to grow indoors with the television and pop culture media serving as not only their source of entertainment, but their connection to world affairs. This understanding and vision of the world manifested itself, not in news broadcasts, but as backdrops to television shows, video games, and Internet ads. The technological revolution advanced our quality of life, but it also hindered the connections made in the early stages of our life with nature. American families chose to learn indoors, play indoors, and experience life indoors, all the while creating this perception that the wildness that makes up the outside could be seen from the calm and controlled areas of the inside. What we are passing on is not the love for nature, but a separation from it that has taken the form of a nature‐deficit disorder (Louv, 2008). Important to note, the disorder is not a clinical diagnosis, but a cultural disease being inherited by the generations of tomorrow. The nature‐deficit disorder is a term coined by author Richard Louv explaining how children are growing up without enough opportunities to go outside. The lack of time spent in the outdoors has been linked to the development of behavioral and health problems such as obesity and depression, while also creating a deep misunderstanding of the natural environment (Louv, 2008). As the disorder gained popularity, organizations across the nation began to show their support for more outdoor programming and opportunities not just in our communities, but in our schools. In 2001, the Bush Administration formulated and passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The Act attempted to higher the standards of learning in public 4schools by creating core subjects in reading, math and science, and applying an outcome‐based technique in which each state was required to implement standardized testing (PL 107‐110). What the Act failed to do was provide support for environmental education (NCLI Coalition, 2009). After eight years since its implementation, the NCLB has had major effects on the learning experiences of young students. Because standardized testing results reflect back upon the efficiency of the state, cities, and teachers, a large portion of the academic year is dedicated to extensive preparation for testing. Less emphasis is placed on the arts and environmental education in order to focus on the core subjects of the NCLB. Another issue becoming increasingly and frightingly common in schools is the reduction and sometimes, elimination of recess periods. Studies have shown that students are more prone to behave inappropriately when their reccess periods were taken away (Ridgway et. al, 2008). Yet, there are schools around the country that are keeping students indoors during the normal recess periods as a punishment for incomplete work (Louv, 2008). An act like this is only a short‐term solution (if one can call it a solution at all) with long‐term consequences. To eliminate these types of ordeals from occurring and in order to close the ecoliteracy gap in public schools, environmental, educational, and political organizations have united to formulate a new bill, the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act. The NCLI will help create new environmental programs and centers through grants, help teachers and educators incorporate environmental education into their curriculum, and extend its aid to agencies, businesses, and non‐profit organizations seeking to promote environmental education. While the original bill was introduced in 2007, the house 5and senate version was reintroduced to Congress on April 22, 2009. Its action is still being awaited. While the NCLI and the nature‐deficit disorder are at the national‐level, the only way to truly tackle such issues and help support bills like the NCLI is by working at the local level. Smith College has a great resource available to its students with the existence of the Outdoor Program and Club, as well as the climbing and boat facilities. The college also has a partnership with the staff and K‐6 grade students at the Smith College Campus School. With the guidance of the NCLI Coalition and Louv’s book, Last Child Left in the Woods, my goal was to address these issues in our own community in Northampton by 1) having the college sign on as a member of the NCLI coalition of which Hampshire College’s Outdoor Program is already a member of, 2) construct an outdoor event plan geared towards children that can be used by Smith College’s


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