Nature Deficit Disorder is caused by an alienation from nature. Children who do not spend enough time outdoors have attention difficulties and exhibit higher rates of emotional and physical illness.
Nature Deficit Disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities, according to Richard Louv author of “Last Child in the Woods.” The major causes of Nature Deficit Disorder are the commercialization of childhood, parental fear of crime and/or traffic, loss of natural play spaces, and the overuse of computer games and TV.
The amount of time children spend outdoors is declining. According to research from Every Child Outdoors, a study of 1,400 children ages 10 to 12, found 37 percent spend a half-hour or less daily being active outside. The study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that 49 percent of boys typically spend at least two hours per day in front of a computer screen or a TV.
A vital part of Scouting includes reconnecting children –especially boys—to nature. Scout camp helps boys understand their connection to nature and their impact on nature. Boys learn the importance of preserving the wilderness. Scouts also learn how plants are important to animals, and what plants and animals area are protected.
Outdoor experiences, such as camping, help strengthen our bodies, pacify our minds, and restore our spirits. Camping is rejuvenating. Camping teaches resilience, builds courage, and reveals strengths and weaknesses. Camping helps make boys productive people.
Scouts develop strong personal values at camp. They also gain a positive sense of self-worth and usefulness. The purpose of Scout camp is to help youth develop good values, leadership, citizenship, and fitness.
Researchers show nature experiences teach skills, increase social interaction, and promote the development of responsible citizens. Hands-on learning makes subjects real and interesting. Students learn best when they are active participants. Increased physical activity also contributes to enhanced concentration levels when children return to a classroom setting. Outdoor adventures help children develop confidence.
Author: Liz Merrell | Sr. Development Director, Utah National Parks Council