Children & Nature: A Lost Connection

Today, children are heavily exposed to nature and are well schooled regarding the importance of conservation. Daycare centers and schools provide regular field trips to zoos, museums and nature centers and communities offer a host of volunteer programs related to recycling or environmental cleanup. Of course, many parents do their part by "living green" and by taking their children to parks, campgrounds and nature preserves.

On the other hand, I am concerned that many children (especially those living in urban and suburban areas) are denied the immersion in nature that past generations of children were able to experience. Memories of my early childhood are filled with exploration; my friends and I spent endless hours in the nearby woods, along the creeks and ponds or tramping through fields and farms. Such open space was readily available in those days and concern for our safety was relatively nonexistent. On summer days and on weekends throughout the year, we might disappear for hours at a time, immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of nature; though we knew little about the science of what we discovered, our natural curiosity kept us more than entertained.

While our informal introduction to nature may have been inferior to the educational programs that children are offered today, our connection to the natural world was more personal and, perhaps, more long lasting. As for myself, I have never left the woods of my youth and I can only hope that today's parents make every effort to create the same experience for their children. To do so will be a much greater challenge than it was for past generations of parents; the loss of open space, the varied diversions of modern technology and the unfortunate risks of modern society are all roadblocks to a child's connection with nature.