Trek Women
October 21, 2008

Get outdoors, it's yours...

Logoget_outdoors_yours When’s the last time you encouraged somebody to get outdoors? That was the question posed by the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, at a press conference I participated in last week along with Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, and Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks, Lyle Laverty. I was to sign a pledge of cooperation (for the association where I work) to announce the new “Get Outdoors, It’s Yours!” campaign to reconnect children with nature.


“There is a crisis in America in which our kids are increasingly disconnected from nature,” said Secretary Kempthorne. “We must get children off the couch and outdoors. We must get them to turn off the computers and televisions and turn on to the power of wild places and wild creatures to lift them up – to rejuvenate body, soul and spirit.”

I think about my childhood and it was spent outside with my sisters and the other neighborhood kids -- riding bikes around the block, playing Ghost in the Graveyard, pretending we were Little House on the Prairie, and going to Girl Scout camp. No one told us to go outside; it was more like we had to be told (repeatedly) to come inside at the end of the day.

That’s sad to think about, that kids are plugged in or scheduled for structured activity and schools are getting rid of recess because there is no time left after no child left behind test preparation. One stat I came across is that there is a 30% decrease in bike riding among youth today. Here’s another, in a typical week only 6% of children ages 9 to 13 play outside on their own. Kids are losing their natural curiosity.

There’s a wonderful book by Richard Louv called
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. In it, he directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders and depression. At times, it’s pretty frightening to read how lifestyle changes are impacting youth. Says one 4th grader in the book, “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” But, there’s also hope, because all you need to do is open the front door and step outside.

So, get outdoors and take someone with you – it’s yours.

Go to www.getoutdoorsitsyours.gov, for lists of places for all sorts of outdoor activities from biking to wildlife viewing. For more about nature deficit disorder, visit the Children and Nature Network at childrenandnature.org.

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