Are you looking for a way to get your students “unplugged” and immersed in the natural world? Would you like them to sharpen their observation skills and deepen their appreciation for the environment? Studies show that children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature; which will have a long-lasting impact on our families, our communities, and the environment. In his best-selling book Last Child in the Woods: How to Save our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv outlines why exposure to green places is essential to the healthy development of children. He cites that nearly 8 million children in the U.S. are diagnosed with mental disorders; ADHD being the most prevalent among them. Indoor activities such as playing video games and watching television have been branded the main culprits, but Louv hypothesizes that the absence of natural play in our highly urbanized culture may be equally detrimental. He explains that in the past, “Many of these children, girls as well as boys, would have been directing their energy and physicality in constructive ways: doing farm chores, baling hay, splashing in the swimming hole, climbing trees, racing to the sandlot for a game of baseball. Their unregimented play would have been steeped in nature.” But now without the meaningful ways to channel their energy, children are accused of being “restless” and “impulsive.” So many of the great minds of our time began as nature-lovers. Benjamin Franklin, Ansel Adams, John Muir, and Thomas Edison each had early childhood experiences on the farm, the beach, and in the woods to form a foundation for their future contributions to society. In 1956, when beloved environmentalist Rachel Carson published The Sense of Wonder, she speculated that teaching children to appreciate the outdoors would have great significance. She asked rhetorically “Is the exploration of the natural world just a pleasant way to pass the golden hours of childhood, or is there something deeper?” She reasoned that time spent in nature would help future generations to “find reserves of strength that will last a lifetime” (Carson 100). More recently, Michael Gurian, a family therapist and best-selling author of The Wonder of Boys has noted “Neurologically, human beings haven’t caught up with today’s over-stimulating environment. The brain is strong and flexible, so 70 to 80 percent of kids adapt fairly well. But the rest don’t. Getting kids out in nature can make a difference” (Louv 103). New studies support that in addition to obesity, physical experiences outdoors can combat mental illness and attention deficit disorders while improving observational and problem-solving skills (Louv 35).
Hawaii Outdoors Institute offers custom courses that can be created with the specific needs of your students in mind. A bonding experience for the start of the school year, a culminating activity for the end of a school year, or an adventurous field trip to introduce or reinforce a new unit or concept are among your options. Hawaii Outdoors was founded to inspire environmental stewardship in young people, to teach leadership skills, and to support the movement to “leave no child indoors.” William Wordsworth once said “Let nature be your teacher.” Our activities in the outdoors teach students about marine biology, environmental science, geology, and Hawaiian culture; while allowing them to listen, observe, and gain confidence in a natural setting. Snorkeling, scuba-diving, hiking, sailing, farming, and environmental service projects bring traditional subjects to life.