The Importance Of Nature For Youth Development

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Imagine a boy who has never crunched leaves underfoot as he winds down a forest trail, or a girl who has never followed frogs along a marsh. Imagine children who have watched Finding Nemo but never have seen a living fish in a pond, or have read Charlotte’s Web but never seen the morning dew settle on a spider’s filaments. Unfortunately, our imaginations do not need to stray very far to envision lives of children cut off from nature, solely surrounded by concrete, metal and bricks. Many Canadian educators intuitively recognize nature experiences as beneficial for youth, and various sources of information— their own experiences, poetry, movies or scientific studies—seem to support such intuitions. Despite the growing cultural awareness of the importance of nature for youth’s development, there seems to be a continuing emphasis on indoor, disembodied forms of education in classrooms, that are overly focused on abstract cognition at the expense of emotion, movement, and other processes rooted in body-environment interactions. Why not reconsider the significance of nature as a valuable object of learning, and reshape the current outdoor and nature narrative throughout our curriculum? Based on my own personal experience, Chambers’ affirmations and Doll’s rationale, nature should be considered as such.

Despite living in an urban setting, I grew up nature. I made dollhouses out of birch bark inhabited by acorn people, turning rivers into roads for tadpoles. The forest was my
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