The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 46: Kid's Nature, part 1

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Getting kids into the wilderness could be the best thing you could do, not only for them, but for the wilderness as well. This week on The WildeBeat; Kid's Nature, part one.

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News from the WildeBeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number forty six.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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RICHARD LOUV: For tens of thousands of years, for eons, all of human history and prehistory, children went outside and spent much of their formative years either playing or working in nature. And within a matter of two or three decades in Western society, we're seeing the possibility of that disappearing -- virtually disappearing. That has to have implications for health -- Physical health, mental health, and even spiritual health.

STEVE: That's Richard Louv. He's the author of the book, "Last Child in the Woods, Saving our children from Nature Deficit Disorder." When you were a kid, how much time did you spend playing in nature? Did you get free, unstructured time in some undeveloped place, perhaps a wooded creek side, or a vacant lot. Richard says that chances are, how much of that you did is related more to your age than where you grew up.

RICHARD LOUV: Actually some of the older cities have quite a bit of nature in them. Philadelphia is filled with parks. New York City -- Central Park was created at the turn of the past century. For health -- it was created by the industrialists for the workers for their health because they recognized even in the 1880s that nature is connected to health. The new suburbs have no nature at all essentially. They may have greenery, but it's essentially manicured into nonexistence in terms of nature. Kids had freedom in earlier decades. Now basically kids are being raised under virtual house arrest.

STEVE: Virtual house arrest -- that sounds pretty harsh. Isn't it just that kids are staying inside because the skills they need to learn to get along in the modern world have less to do with nature?

RICHARD LOUV: The primary reason that kids are not going outdoors anymore is not so much about access or about worry about productivity. The primary reason is that parents are scared to death of stranger danger... The truth is that for the last decade at least, child abductions have actually been on the decline, and almost all abductions are not by strangers but by family members.

STEVE: Richard argues that keeping our kids inside is more dangerous than letting them out.

RICHARD LOUV: Anybody who knows anything about play understands that that is the child's most important work. That's where the child learns all kinds of developmental things, from team work to cognitive skills, to a sense of independence, etc, all of which prepare them for later life. The idea that somehow nature is extraneous or an extracurricular activity is a denial of our biology. In truth, playing in nature does such good things for our kids cognitively, etc. I mean one study in California of schools that still had some sort of immersion program for a couple weeks in nature show that the kids in those programs did twenty seven percent better on science than the kids in the traditional classroom. So we are moving in the exact opposite direction if we really want productivity and independance and a sense of connection later to the world as adults.

STEVE: Richard's thoughts brings us to the question, how do we get our kids out into the outdoors and wilderness in a healthy way? I found another author who has an answer.

STEVE: I'm talking with Scott Graham. He's the author of Extreme Kids, How to Connect With Your Children through Today's Extreme, and Not So Extreme Outdoor Sports. It's published by Wilderness Press. Scott, welcome to The WildeBeat.

SCOTT GRAHAM: Thanks. Glad to be here.

STEVE: So let's start with, what tempted you to start on this project?

SCOTT GRAHAM: I, uh, have been having a great time doing lots of things in the outdoors with my kids. My wife and I spent a lot of time in the outdoors in our pre-kid days, and in the mean time, the publisher of some of my earlier books, she and her husband are, as we like to say, child-free, and so have continued to doing their outdoor pursuits without kids. And so we've kind of compared notes over the years, and she kept talking to me about how terrific it is the things we were doing, and I kept saying, "You know, this is what everyone here in the town I live in, Durango, Colorado, this is what everybody does with their kids. I mean, we just kind of keep doing what we've been doing with our kids." And she said, "You know, for a lot of folks, this is interesting stuff." And so we got to talking about it, and kind of together cooked up the idea of doing this book.

STEVE: And so, talk about some of the differences and the kinds of activities you could do before and after.

SCOTT GRAHAM: Really, I think, the neat answer to that question is, you can pretty much do everything after you have kids that you were doing before you had kids. It just takes a different kind of mind set. You just have to come at it from the kids angle, instead of from your own angle. And literally, it's only for a few years that you have to really be thinking about the kids and what they're capable of, because very quickly, I've learned, these kids get really good at outdoor sports, and you kind of go from doing your little day-hikes and looking at snails and picking up rocks, to chasing after your kids while they're bombing down the rapids in their kayaks or climbing five-nine, five-ten routes that I can't climb anymore. That sort of thing.

STEVE: Well I have extended family members, children in their early teens who would think that a three mile walk to school, if they had to walk that far, would be and extreme sport.

SCOTT GRAHAM: Well, exactly. One of the reasons I was very interested in writing this book is to kind of offer alternatives to that. Kids love being outdoors. Anything you do in the outdoors, can be extreme and in terms of what it does for you and your kids, is extremely good. And you know, a three mile walk to school, if you walk the right way, find the little last bits of woods and stuff like that, can be totally extreme, and totally fun with your little kids. And as they get older, I mean the things that kids are capable of and that they want to do, are things that are really fun to do with them as parents.

STEVE: One of the attitudes I've taken in my approach in this show, is that, you don't really need to do extreme sports to discover the wilderness and discover nature, and perhaps a lot of the outdoor recreation publications and media give you the idea that the only thing interesting are these people that are taking extreme risks, that are extremely fit, that are extremely skilled, going to extraordinary places. It seems to me that that, if anything, maybe scares some people away from a lot of outdoor activities. Do you think your title, Extreme Kids, is going to scare some people away from the kind of activities you're actually trying to encourage?

SCOTT GRAHAM: Well I hope it will intrigue them to pick the book up off the shelf, and then I hope the subtitle will kind of draw them back in, I guess, is the way I think of it. Absolutely, I mean the Extreme Kids title is meant as an attention grabber. And I think it's in the same way that, you know, the magazines and the publications that you're referring to use the most extreme to sell their publications and to sell issues. In the case of my book, I've gone to great lengths to try to use that title as a kind of a grabber, but then to really try to explain what I mean by extreme, and what extreme means to kids and to parents that are exploring some of these outdoor sports together. Extreme kids are those who explore the outdoors in ways that are just fun and exciting for themselves and themselves alone.

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Next time -- part two of Kid's Nature.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to support future editions of The WildeBeat. Contribute your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number forty six. Thank you for listening.

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