Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guest Blog #2 Dr. Sean Haney on Nature Deficiency Syndrome

Guest Blog #2 Dr. Sean Haney, Kaiser Permanente

Richard Louv popularized the concept of the “nature deficiency syndrome” in his 2006 book, Last Child in the Woods.  His concept is essentially that children are no longer experiencing nature as they once had. This in turn has contributed to the increase in childhood obesity and attention deficit disorder.  The concept is interesting and thought provoking.

I am no expert on this specific research field but knowing a fair amount about how research is done, I suspect that this might be difficult to prove.  From anecdotal evidence (that is a fancy way of saying “in my experience”), children do not seem to experience nature as they once did.  By “nature” I don’t mean Yosemite or Rocky Mountain National Park.  Families took vacations to these wonderful parks and still do.   The nature which kids are not exploring as they once did is actually the nearby open field, creek or hillside.  I remember growing up in an area where the hills had not yet been built upon.  We used the trails, peaks, gulches as our exploration ground, physically and imaginatively.  We rode our bikes, fought dragons, rescued maidens and killed monsters.

The reason for the loss of this connection to nature maybe loss of environment, safety concerns for the children and alternative choices regarding use of free time.
So, instead of being outside exploring and experience the outdoors or parks, our children are spending a lot more time in front of electronic screens and in organized play dates and not free exploration of hillsides and open fields.

The effect of the nature deficit disorder per Lovu is an increase in attention deficit disorder (ADD), mood disorders and obesity.  ADD and mood disorders may be more prevalent because we have more sensitive screening tools now and not necessarily for other reasons.  An increase in childhood obesity is well documented. Causation is difficult to prove.

Will reconnecting with nature diminish the effects of the purported nature deficiency syndrome?  I don’t know.  I believe that reconnecting our children to nature is important for many reasons.   They may enjoy the experience tremendously and it may get them out from the screens that take so much of their time.  One day they will grow up and vote (hopefully) and if they think back fondly on their experiences outdoors in out parks or open fields, hill sides and creeks, they may wish to protect these spaces for their own children.  If getting kids outside helps prevent nature deficiency syndrome and all that accompanies it, then great.  Regardless, kids should be discovering trails and bugs while slaying dragons and rescuing fair damsels from evil knights.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The North Face Awards Explore Fund Grant to the Colorado Mountain Club


Colorado Mountain Club                  


 The North Face Awards Explore Fund Grant to the Colorado Mountain Club
CMC’s Youth Education Program supports a national effort to increase outdoor exploration among Colorado youth

GOLDEN, Colo – June 11, 2012 – The North Face has awarded an Explore Fund grant to the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) for the Youth Education Program (YEP). The Explore Fund’s mission is to inspire and enable the next generation of explorers by funding nonprofit organizations that are working to re-connect children with nature. By encouraging an active healthy lifestyle and protection of our natural landscapes, a stronger connection of youth to the outdoors can be nurtured. The CMC’s Youth Education Program provides opportunities for youth to learn about and explore the outdoors through hands-on activities in the classroom, at the American Mountaineering Center, or in local open space parks with the classes and courses organized to meet the needs of teachers and individuals.
The CMC was selected from over five hundred applications submitted for the first of two grant cycles in 2012, because of the CMC’s devotion to connecting those who love the Colorado Rockies or who study or seek recreation in them.
Since The Explore Fund was initiated in 2010, The North Face has provided $625,000 in grants to non-profits working to connect youth to the outdoors.
"As I child, I had the great fortune to hike through a meadows of wildflowers, wade in crystal clear creeks, and climb Colorado's majestic peaks. Unfortunately, today fewer and fewer kids have those kinds of outdoor experiences,” said Brenda Porter, Operations Director of the CMC. “The competing forces of video games, T.V. time, and increasing rates of childhood obesity make it more important than ever to provide youth with active outdoor adventures. Thanks to support from the North Face Explore Fund, CMC will continue to engage a broad spectrum of youth in mountain education and adventures during our summer camps and school-day field trips.”   
The Youth Education Program was established in 1999 to share the CMC’s mission with a wider audience, specifically youth. In addition, as CMC’s facility emerged into a world-class center complete with auditorium, conference center, and library, it became an ideal destination for school and youth group field trips. Since its founding, the CMC's Youth Education Program continues to provide opportunities for over 5,000 kids annually to experience the natural world through active learning adventures—essential opportunities to help combat childhood obesity and prevent "nature deficit disorder." 
In addition, the CMC’s Youth Education Program has been able to advance the mission exponentially with the support of several important partner organizations including the Scientific Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).
“The Outdoor Foundation has identified that a barrier to getting youth outdoors is lack of opportunity for kids to learn about and actually get to outdoors. We believe this has to happen at a grass roots, community level,” said Ann Krcik, director of Outdoor Participation at The North Face. “During the granting process, we make a conscious effort to reflect on what we refer to as the virtuous cycle. We first need to provide the opportunity for kids to get outside and play. If we can provide them with an initial positive experience outdoors, they will grow up inspired to care about their natural world.”

To learn more the CMC’s Youth Education Program, visit www.cmc.org/yep.  For more information about The North Face Explore Fund, please visit www.explorefund.org.

About the Colorado Mountain Club
The Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to adventure, education and preservation in Colorado. Established in 1912 by mountaineering enthusiasts, CMC now has more than 7,000 members statewide who explore and protect the wild areas of Colorado. CMC offers hundreds of events and classes for all ages and abilities. Throughout its history, the club has been instrumental in landmark achievements such as the designation of Rocky Mountain National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and the passage of the Wilderness Act. To become a member, visit www.cmc.org.
About The North Face®
The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor, Inc., was founded in 1968. Headquartered in San Leandro, California, the company offers the most technically advanced products in the market to accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes, endurance athletes, and explorers. The company’s products are sold in specialty mountaineering, backpacking, running, and snowsport retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains.

About PlanetExplore
PlanetExplore is an online community founded by The North Face, powered by partner organizations that share a passion for the outdoors, and designed to help individuals and families learn about and participate in outdoor activities and events in their area. PlanetExplore is a portal to the outdoors designed to inspire and enable people of all ages to become regularly active outside, and to enjoy the benefits gained through a connection to nature.