Many of the conversations I have had with my grandmother have involved her telling me stories being told to go play outside. These stories come from her childhood as well as my dad’s. My mom has explained to me the importance of the bell that now hangs outside our back door, as it was used to call her and her siblings out of the forest for dinnertime. When I hear these stories, I am often envious of how the times have changed and how I have lacked such experiences. Now that I have reached the age of college, I have started to understand enough about nature to realize what I have missed out on. I now know the importance of going out into nature, and I feel it is my duty to help others do the same.
As I look back on my childhood, some of my favorite memories did include playing outside with my neighborhood friends. However, I believe that my generation is the transitional generation in the definition of a “playground” and “playtime.” My parents and grandparents used the forest and the meadow as their playgrounds, searching for undiscovered paths and playing with new types of bugs each day. They would fearlessly jump into the local pond or lake to cool off. The next generation, including my brother and myself, began the transition to today’s youth. We preferred to play in manmade locations, such as playgrounds and water parks. Although we were still technically playing outside, we had already begun the removal of youth from nature. The current youth have continued to widen this gap between playtime and nature. They prefer playing with technology inside the comfort of their houses. Many even fear the unknown of the natural world that had once appealed to so many youth.
This removal from nature is leading to what Richard Louv calls “nature-deficit disorder.” He explains that so many of the disorders that many children are diagnosed with today are because they are too sheltered from nature. The stories from older generations combined with my own personal experiences have led me to agree with this. Disorders such as ADHD as well as certain types of illnesses have become much more prevalent simply because youth are not going outside and exposing themselves to new experiences in nature. Their immune systems are not developing as much and their mental capacities are not being exercised to the fullest capacity. However, nature-deficit disorder is not only linked to medical effects. Youth have lost the ability to develop and expand their imagination. Nowadays, they need a screen in front of their faces in order to keep themselves amused. This nature-deficit disorder only has one solution: exposing youth to nature. I was so excited to be able to do this through Eagle Eye as one of the 2013 summer interns, and I look forward to doing more of this in the future.
By Samantha Bloom
2013 Summer Intern