In the Spring, there isn’t a more beautiful place to be outdoors than right here in our amazing Sonoran Desert. Over Rodeo Break the National Park Service (NPS) is offering a 3 day Wilderness Camp at Saguaro National Park to children 10-14 for only $40.00 with scholarships available. Email Ranger Chip to inquire about registration. It is part of the NPS mission to encourage young people to visit their parks and develop a love for that natural world.
At PFFS we heartily agree with this mission. Even though we are two urban schools, we are constantly seeking opportunities to get our students outdoors, most notably through our Expedition and Intersession programs. This year alone our students will have visited Mt. Lemmon, Agua Caliente, Steampump Ranch, the Turquoise Trail as well as participated in numerous urban walks throughout Tucson. And our Spring Intersession options include two different backpacking trips: PFFS-Downtown and PFFS-University.
Unfortunately many children in the U.S. today do not have these opportunities. In fact, the numbers of students who spend little to no time outside are significant enough that there is a name for it: “nature-deficit disorder.” In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv writes passionately about the issue:
“Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature—in positive ways. Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies. As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”
We will continue to design ways to connect our PFFS young people with nature and we want to encourage families to deliberately plan for meaningful and magical moments as well. Here are a list of things families can do:
- Invite native flora and fauna into your life. Maintain a birdbath. Replace part of your lawn with native plants. Build a bat house.
- Revive old traditions. Collect lightning bugs at dusk, release them at dawn. Make a leaf collection. Keep a terrarium or aquarium. Collect stones.
- Encourage your kids to go camping in the backyard.
- Be a cloudspotter; build a backyard weather station.
- Make the “green hour” a new family tradition.
- Take a hike.
- Invent your own nature game.
- Encourage your kids to build a tree house, fort, or hut.
- Raise butterflies-from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to emerging monarch.
- Plant a garden.