“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
Baba Dioum, Senegalese Environmentalist and Poet
Even though it’s still making headlines, it shouldn’t be news to anyone — kids today are spending too much time inside and not enough time in nature. A recent U.K. study conducted by the National Trust showed that of the 1,651 children surveyed, only half could tell the difference between a bee and a wasp but 90 per cent could identify Yoda. This study focused on U.K. children, but would Canadian kids fare any better? If we can be compared to our neighbours to the south — who have studied this growing disconnect in detail — the answer is no.
Richard Louv, American author of Last Child in the Woods, has coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to describe the effects of this growing phenomenon that has us keeping our kids inside. But why is spending time outside so important to our kids that we have even gone so far as to label it a “disorder?” Research has shown that kids who are not exposed to wildlife and the natural world have lower test scores, and higher rates of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), obesity and depression. Essentially, ushering them indoors doesn’t let kids be kids.
Allowing our kids to play outside can have benefits for wildlife as well. If a child understands their connection to the natural world they’re more likely to grow up as responsible environmental stewards and pass these values onto their own children. Understanding nature can mean that the bumblebee will be appreciated for the gifts it provides us through pollination rather than feared for the possibility that it might sting. This new and valuable perspective can mean new possibilities for conservation in Canada.
But how do you get kids outside? It’s time to turn off the TV and tune into nature. The Canadian Wildlife Federation offers a variety of programs to get our kids outside and connected to nature:
- WILD Schools and Blue Schoolsprovide funding to qualifying schools to undertake habitat and watershed restoration projects.
- National Wildlife Week and Rivers to Oceans Weekare week-long, nationwide events that focus on important wildlife and water issues by providing educational resources to schools and educators.
- Hinterland Who’s Whohas new vignettes and websiodes focused on urban wildlife and getting outside.
- Wild About Gardening offers fantastic tips on gardening for wildlife as well as the “Wild About...” poster series to help adults and kids alike identify the creatures they’ve got in their backyards.