Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

A couple months ago (April?) I read the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. This book is somewhat of a manual in the homeschooling community at large (so I hear). I was really impressed with the amount of research went into this book. As a child I was always outdoors, not by choice necessarily, but the ideas and themes in this book really resonated with me for this reason. What follows is a compilation of quotes I’d like to remember from the book. I really should just buy it, huh? I’ve tried to correct the typos, but I am sure I missed plenty.

 

introduction pg 3 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.

pg 7  Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.

pg 10  “I like to play indoors better, ‘ cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

pg 11 “We’ve become a more sedentary society. When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, we were always outdoors. The kids who stayed indoors were the odd ones.” “…Something else was different when we were young: our parents were outdoors.

pg 19 Not yet fully formed or explored, this new frontier is characterized by at least five trends: a severance of the public and private mind from our food’s origins; a disappearing line between machines, humans and other animals; an increasingly intellectual understanding of our relationship with other animals; the invasion of our cities by wild animals (even as urban/suburban designers replace wildness with synthetic nature); and the rise of a new kind of suburban form, particularly evident in the United States.

pg 21 In less than half a century, the culture has moved from a time when small family farms dominated the countryside to a transitional time when many suburban families’ vegetable gardens provided little more than recreation, to the current age of shrink-wrapped, lab-produced food.

pg 30 The cumulative impact of overdevelopment, multiplying park rules, well-meaning (and usually necessary) environmental regulations, building regulations, community covenants and fear of litigation sends a chilling message to our children that their free range play is unwelcome, that organized sports on manicured playing fields are the only officially sanctioned form of outdoor recreation.

pg 31 Copious studies show a reduced amount of leisure time experienced by modern families, more time in front of the TV and the computer, and growing obesity among adults and children because of diet and sedentary lifestyles.

pg 32 “Based on previous studies, we can definitely say that the best predictor of preschool children’s physical activity is simply being outdoors and that an indoor, sedentary childhood is linked to mental health problems.” Sallis

pg 33 A British Study discovered that average eight-year-olds were better able to identify characters from the japanese card trading game Pokémon than native species in the community where they lived.

pg 34 In Amsterdam, a study compared children’s play in the Netherlands in the 1950s and 1960s to child’s play in the first years of the twenty-first century: Children today play outside less often and for briefer periods; they have a more restricted home range and have fewer, less diverse playmates.

pg 35 “containerized kids” …spend more and more time in car seats, high chairs, and even baby seats for watching TV. When small children do go outside, they’re often placed in containers– strollers– and pushed… Clearly the childhood break from nature is part of a larger dislocation–physical restriction of childhood in a rapidly urbanizing world, with nature experience a major casualty.

pg 35 As the nature deficit grows, another emerging body of scientific evidence indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health. For example, new studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of ADHD, and that it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.

pg 36 Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. Nature deficit can even change human behavior in cities, which could ultimately affect their design, since long-standing studies show a relationship between the absence, or inaccessibility, of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies.

By weighing the consequences of the disorder, we also can become more aware of how blessed our children can be–biologically, cognitively, and spiritually–through positive physical connection to nature.

pg 41 People are unlikely to value what they cannot name.

pg 48 The obesity epidemic coincides with the greatest increase in organized children’s sports in history.

simply looking at nature helps with sickness (paraphrase)

pg 50 …life’s stressful events appear not to cause as much psychological distress in children who live in high-nature conditions compared with children who live in low-nature conditions.”

pg 51 Even when we drive to mountains and deserts, “it is not unusual to make a day trip, stopping only for coffee of a snack along the way. The entire experience occurs within an automobile looking out.”

pg 63 Why do so many Americans say they want their children to watch less TV, yet continue to expand the opportunities for them to watch it? More important, why do so many people no longer consider the physical world worth watching?

Perhaps we’ll someday tell our grandchildren stories about our version of the nineteenth-century Conestoga wagon.
“You did what?” they’ll ask.
“Yes,” we’ll say, “it’s true. We actually looked out the car window.”

pg 67 Instructors in medical schools find it increasingly difficult to teach how the heart works as a pump, he says, “because these students have so little real-world experience; they’ve never siphoned anything, never fixed a car, never worked on a fuel pump, may not even have hooked up a garden hose. For a whole generation of kids, direct experiences in the backyard, in the tool shed, in the fields and woods, has been replaced by indirect learning, through machines.

pg 99 In the United States, as the federal and state governments and local school boards have pushed for higher test scores in the first decade of the twenty-first century, nearly 40 percent of American elementary schools either eliminated or were considering eliminating recess. In the era of test-centric education reform and growing fear of liability, many districts considered recess a waste of potential academic time or too risky.

pg 102 In an agricultural society, or during a time of exploration and settlement, or hunting and gathering, energetic boys were particularly prized for their strength, speed and agility.

pg 110 [T]he sign over Albert Einstein’s office at Princeton University read, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

pg 11 Some of the teenagers Ybarra took under his wing had never been to the mountains or beyond earshot of a combustion engine. The farthest one girl had been from her inner city home was a trip to a suburb.

pg 116 [A]s the pace of life, especially for children, has quickened–as we have striven to improve schools, increase productivity, accumulate wealth, and provide a more technological education–the consequences of our intentions are not always what we intend.

pg 117 A flat patch of grass or synthetic turf may be perfect for organized sports, but not for unstructured or natural play. When a park is graded to create a playing field, children gain soccer capacity, but they lose places for self-directed play. Indeed research suggests that children, when left to their own devices, are drawn to the rough edges of such parks, the ravines and rocky inclines, the natural vegetation. A park may be neatly trimmed and landscaped, but the natural corners and edges where children once played can be lost in translation.

pg 117 It takes time—loose, unstructured dreamtime—to experience nature in a meaningful way. Unless parents are vigilant, such time becomes a scarce resource, because time is consumed by multiple invisible forces; because our culture currently places so little value on natural play.

pg 118 I was intrigued with the way children defined play: often, their definition did not include soccer or piano lessons. Those activities were more like work.

pg 118 A central concern is how parents model their own use of time—their attitude about where time fits into their busy lives. In a classroom in Potomac, Maryland, ninth-grader Courtney Ivins clearly expressed this effect. As people grow older, nature’s magnificence “gets easier to overlook,” she surmises. “Snow not only brings a chance to miss school, but it also provides a means for adventure…snowmen, igloos, and snowball fights.” But for many adults, she observes, “snow is just another one of life’s many hassles. The roads are slippery, traffic is increased, and sidewalks are ready to be shoveled

pg. 119 Television remains the most effective thief of time.

pg 120 Our seeming inability to control the remote control is certainly one cause, a major one, for our perceived time poverty. But other factors are also at work, among them: employers who attempt to squeeze the last drop of employees’ energy, limited recreation facilities, and dangerous parks in lower-income neighborhoods.

pg 121 [M]ost parents have an acutely tuned sense of responsibility— to the point where they consider relaxation and leisure, for themselves or their children, a self-indulgent luxury. By taking nature experience out of the leisure column and placing it in the health column, we are more likely to take our children on that hike–more likely to, well, have fun. Such a change in outlook is crucial.

pg 123 (Quote from Tina Kafka, a mother) “When I think of my own childhood, I particularly remember those special times when I was climbing my tree, or playing pirates in the wash behind my house, or sliding down the wash sides on a piece of cardboard. But I realize now, after talking with my mother– who said she scheduled a lot of my childhood, arranging for friends to come over, all that–that the free time in the wash may not have actually occupied that many hours of my childhood. But those hours are the moments I remember absolutely vividly. Even with my own children, I am often amazed how some activity that I have carefully planned pales in their long-term memories compared to another activity that was completely spontaneous and hardly memorable to me. As adults, we can plan a million things to take up our kids’ time in a meaningful way, but what really clicks into their inner being is beyond our control.  Sometimes I wonder why we think we need so much control.

pg 124 In terms of child development, the shrinking home range is no small issue. An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children; but other risks are heightened, including risks to physical and psychological health, risk to the child’s concept and perception of community, risk to self-confidence and the ability to discern true danger— and beauty.

pg 129 [G]uaranteed safety, or the illusion of it, can only be bought at a dangerous price. Imagine future generations of children who have been raised to accept the inevitability of being electronically tracked every day, ever second in every room of their lives, in the un-brave new world. Such technology may work in the short run, but it may also create a false sense of security and serve as a poor substitute for the proven antidotes to crime: an active community, more human eyes on the streets, and self-confident children.

pg 132 Ironically, a generation of parents fixated on being buff is raising a generation of physical weaklings. Two-thirds of American children can’t pass a basic physical; 40 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls ages six to seventeen can’t manage more than one pull-up; a 40 percent show early signs of heart and circulation problems, according to a recent report by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

pg 132 So where is the greatest danger? Outdoors, in the woods and fields? Or on the couch in front of the TV? One is that we may end up teaching our children, in the same breath, that life is too risky but also not real– that there is a medical remedy for every mistake.

pg 155 An astute book editor once told me: “A book written for everyone is a book for no one.”

pg 169 Constructively bored kids eventually turn to a book, or build a fort, or pull out the paints and create, or come home sweaty from a  game of neighborhood basketball.

pg 170 Children need adults who understand the relationship between boredom and creativity, adults willing to spend time in nature with kids, adults willing to set the stage so that kids can create their own play and enter nature through their own imaginations.

pg 184 (Zahn) “We have to dispel this whole notion of stranger-danger and substitute some other rules.” Parents and children do have power. Children “should trust their feelings,” he said. “They should fight abductors. They should put distance between themselves and whatever is making them feel badly. And then certainly they should also understand that there are certain kinds of strangers that they can go to.”

pg 185 (Finklehor) “There are an awful lot of programs out there today trying to teach personal safety to children,” he said. “But I honestly think the most important thing a parent can do is to have a good, supportive relationship with the child, because a child who has good self-esteem, good self-confidence, a closer relationship with the parents, is much less likely to be victimized.

pg. 185 The most important protection we can give [our children] is our love and our time.

pg 204 (in regards to standardized testing) (Cicalo) “The kids worry about how they will look to the adults placing so much emphasis on this test. Remember, these children are only seven years old. Why are we putting all this pressure on them?” To improve schools, right? Maybe.

pg 204 While Americans push kids to the competitive edge, Finland’s educational system is headed in exactly the opposite direction. In a 2003 review by the Organization of Economic cooperation and Development, Finland outscored thirty-one other countries, including the United States. Finland scored first in literacy and placed in the top five  in math and science. The United States palced in the middle of the pack.

By the standards of some American educators and policymakers, Finland’s approach seems counterintuitive. Finnish students don’t enter any school until they are seven years old…Finland offers no special programs for the gifted student, and spends less per student on education than the United States… Finnish educators believe in the power of–get this– play.

pg 206 According to the [State Education and Environmental] Roundtable’s report, “Closing the Achievement Gap” in 2002, environment-based education produces student gains in the social studies, science, language arts, and math; improve standardized test scores and grade-point averages; and develops skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision making. (150 schools in 16 states over 10 years.)

pg 220 The greening of school grounds resulted in increased involvement by adults and members of the nearby community. The Canadian researchers also found that green school grounds enhanced learning, compared with conventional turf and asphalt school grounds; that the more varied green play spaces suited a wider array of students and promoted social inclusion, regardless of gender, race, class, or intellectual ability; and they were safer.

pg 226 An environment-based education movement— at all levels of education— will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.

pg 229 Studies of outdoor-education programs geared toward troubled youth—especially those diagnosed with mental-health problems—show a clear therapeutic value. The positive effect holds true whether the program is used as an add-on to more traditional therapy or as therapy in and of itself; it can even be seen when outdoor programs are not specifically designed for therapy.

pg 230 Camp experiences are also highly beneficial for children with disabilities.

pg 302 (Thompson) “The purpose of creation really is to bring us—children and all of us—closer to the creator. As a parent, you don’t encourage children to experience nature because it’s pretty, but because your children are exposed to something larger and longer standing than their immediate human existence.”

pg 304 The coming decades will be a pivotal time in Western thought and faith. For students, a greater emphasis on spiritual context could stimulate a renewed sense of awe for the mysteries of nature and science. For the environmental movement, an opportunity arises to appeal to more than the usual constituencies, to go beyond utilitarian arguments to a more spiritual motivation: conservation is, at its core, a spiritual act. After all, this is God’s creation that is being conserved for future generations. For parents, this wider conversation will intensify the importance of introducing their children to the biological and the spiritual value of green pastures and still water.

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