21 April 2009

Nature-Deficit Disorder -Are you serious?!

When I first heard this term I seriously thought it was a joke. Ha ha, how can anyone be deficient in nature? It's all around us, isn't it? You go outside and you step into it, right? Perhaps not. I have been reading about Richard Louv's book 'Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder' lately. And it seems that it is quite serious.

Well, I spent several of my young years in Chicago. In the middle of the city like so many of the children who are the most at risk. I still question how anyone could possibly have a nature deficit. But if you need some inspiration, Jennifer Ward's book 'I Love Dirt!' is filled with 52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature.

What I remember about living in the city is this: I remember living in an apartment. I remember the courtyard filled with grass and bushes and flowers. I remember apartments filled with plants. I remember talking to the squirrels that visited my windowsill. (It was my toddler to young primary years!) I remember feeding pigeons on that windowsill every morning... like they were pets. The advantage was the mess was outside!

I remember walking up the block to the stoplight, crossing the four lane street to get to the CTA bus stop. The bus driver stopped for us school kids, and took us up the block to school. It saved us walking past all of those brick buildings. I remember the black top paved playground for recess. I remember being fascinated by the plants that grew through the cracks in the black top. Not much nature there!

I also remember heading the other way down the block. We lived half a block off Lake Michigan, and we had a (in my little mind) vast expanse of sand to play in. There was a concrete path that I rode my bike down that went on for several blocks along the sand. I remember crashing into the concrete block at the end of the next street until I learned how to turn and stop on my bike... psychologically blocked at the age of 5...I just could not turn those handle bars! I remember entire days spent playing in the sand and water. I remember swinging from the branches of a Weeping Willow tree into the sand. I remember mud pies. I remember collecting shells. As an adult, I visited that same beach front again, and realized how much it had shrunk! Okay, I grew, and it really had always been that small.

I should really thank my mother at this point. She always made sure that we had a plethora of house plants around us, and that I knew all about whatever animals were around. I think we always had pets of some sort around...usually cats. She even signed up as a Brownie troop leader when I wanted to join Girl Scouts and there were no troops close by, so that she could take us camping and for nature walks. I guess I was lucky, and I suppose my upbringing has led to my disbelief.

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