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A Field Guide to Preserving Childhood


How the camp experience supports a child's connection to nature


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June 2014

It is commonly said that it takes an entire village to raise strong, healthy children. Yes, it takes a village of people to raise a child, but it also takes the village itself.

A hundred years ago, homes were in villages or cabins in the woods. People were surrounded by wide-open spaces with green as far as the eye could see. That is not the case now; the "village" has changed.

What have we forgotten?

For generations, children grew up outside. They walked to school, rode their bikes and walked barefoot through the grass. Being inside all day was torturous.

According to a recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, today's children spend over seven-and-a-half hours each day plugged into some kind of electronic medium. That's more time than they spend doing anything else besides sleeping. There's mounting evidence that all this electronic input is affecting our children's ability to think for themselves.

In addition, exercise is a forgotten practice. The CDC reports that obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago.

According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, society is sending kids a message: "Nature is the past, electronics are the future, and the bogeyman lives in the woods."

It's impossible to remove a child from nature without consequences. Louv explains that when nature is replaced with a constant barrage of television and computers, the use of a child's senses is reduced to the size of the screen they stare at day in and day out, becoming packaged and limited.

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