Milton Chen has a great article in the latest EduTopia titled, “Curing Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Like Milton, my wife read the book â€œLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorderâ€ by Richard Louv, the same book that inspired him to write this new article. I have written on this topic myself several times, including the post “Let’s Fight for Recess.” I am putting this post in my “Luddite” blog category, because thoughts along these lines can be perceived as anti-technology. I don’t view this line of thinking as anti-technology per se, but more BALANCED in the approaches we take toward education, child development, and life in general. Milton seems to share this view. He writes:
Fortunately, there are many organizations, including science centers and museums, zoos and aquaria, local, state, and national parks, environmental-education groups, and 4-H clubs, whose mission is to help children understand the world around them. Although Richard Louv doesn’t address it, the media and technology he blames for contributing to nature-deficit disorder can also be tools for learning about nature. Science and environmental educators have long promoted the use of student versions of the same tools scientists employ, such as temperature probes connected to laptops, global-positioning and geographic-information systems to track species, digital cameras and microscopes, and statistical software to analyze data.
Milton includes links to a good collection of websites and organizations that embody this ethic, like Globe, whose descriptive website subititle is “An exciting, worldwide, hands-on education and science program.” I linked to all of these with a new social bookmarking tag: promotingnature. Milton also has a good list of resources on page two of his article.
Any teacher worth his/her salt knows the practical need of differentiating learning: Kids are not the same! Yet unfortunately, the ridiculous political culture in which we now live has imposed requirements on teachers and administrators that attempts to deny this reality. Environmental education can help bring out abilities, interests and aptitudes in students which might otherwise remain hidden. Milton writes:
Projects that take students into nature allow them to shine in ways that would have been hidden to their teachers and classmates inside the four walls of the schoolroom. As Fritjof Capra, founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, says in GLEF’s documentary on the Edible Schoolyard, “The kid who is brilliant in math or science or language will not necessarily be brilliant in gardening. Somebody who is not very articulate but is very good with his or her hands will be very happy in the garden and will gain in prestige in the class community.”
Virtually every article I read in Edutopia is like a breath of fresh air to me, as an educator and a parent. Yes… other people get it! There IS such a thing as authentic and engaging education, and GLEF does a great job highlighting it through their articles, videos, and other publications. But it is up to us, the educators in the field, to implement these ideas and replicate best practices in other parts of the country and the world!
I love nature: I love to be in it, to camp in it, to study it, to be still in it. We need to help our students in school develop these loves as well. Sound impossible? Hardly. We just need to get our priorities back in line. And that is something we CAN do, because it involves instructional and curricular choices. I’m a staunch advocate for curricular autonomy for classroom teachers for this precise reason. As a society, we must again place our TRUST and our FAITH in professional teachers to care for and nurture our children. High stakes testing can’t and won’t produce a nurturing learning environment for my children or for yours. Only a great teacher can do that, who is empowered and supported in his/her ability to make good instructional decisions for students every day.
So let’s take a field trip! Do you think it might be something our students will remember? Chances are good. But whether or not the experience is worthwhile hinges a great deal on the TEACHERS that are involved– not just the technology or the curriculum.
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