We recently saw Ben Klasky speak at TEDXRainier on a subject he cleverly calls “Nature Deficit Disorder.” What is Nature Deficit Disorder, you may ask?
Klasky defines Nature Deficit Disorder as the negative side effects that come from not spending enough time outdoors. When kids miss out on fresh air and exploring the natural world around them, negative things start to happen. They begin to gain weight. They watch too much television. They become more hyperactive and unfocused.
There are statistics to back up these claims, too. Studies show that in comparison to kids of the 1970s, childhood obesity is now three times higher for children in the year 2000. Today, 40 times more children are prescribed Ritalin for ADHD. And in comparison, kids today are getting on average less than half the time outdoors that their parents experienced as children.
Instead, they’re spending an average of seven hours and 40 minutes watching television per day, while spending less than one hour outdoors. Yes, it’s true. Almost eight hours of television PER DAY.
So how can student service programs like those through the Road Less Traveled help correct that? Here are just a few ways it can reverse those negative effects.
1. It creates an opportunity to explore nature
Whether it’s a SCUBA trip, climbing mountains, or kayaking, RLT trips get children out in nature. They learn safety precautions and how to explore wisely while seeing the world first-hand (and not on a television). Being outdoors creates opportunities for discovery.
2. It keeps their brains active
When kids are out of their comfort zones and are adapting to new situations, their brains are more alert and active. Unlike playing a video game, time spent out in nature requires kids to use all five senses and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
3. It transforms their perspective of the world
Getting out in nature helps kids realize our world is a fascinating place full of all kinds of animals, plants, sights and smells. It’s different from classroom learning in that they are able to be hands-on with this type of educational experience.
4. It helps them de-stress
The physical aspect of outdoor adventures exhaust some of that young energy, nerves, and anxiety that gets pent up when we spend too much time indoors. There’s no better way to unwind than by getting some fresh air on a long hike.
5. It helps them focus
Young minds are constantly distracted by technology in our modern world—whether it’s a beeping text message or headphones in their ears. But all of that fades away when they’re out in the wilderness with only natural sights and sounds. It’s refreshing to disconnect!
It sounds silly, but the reality is monumental: don’t let your child fall victim to Nature Deficit Disorder. Get them outdoors. Send them on a student service trip (where they’ll be serving a community in need AND experiencing the world first hand). Expand their horizons; there’s so much more to our world than what exists inside a screen.
They just have to realize where to find it—outdoors!