In the push for reading and math fluency, children in America are missing an important part of growing up: nature fluency. Nature-deficit disorder, as some call it, is implicated in the obesity epidemic, rise of electronic media consumption, decline of ocean and atmospheric health, and general disconnect with the world beyond humans.
What’s the solution to all the deficiencies? A re-education in nature.
Nature fluency is witnessing the cycles of nature, being able to name creatures by the seasons, and appreciating our place in the natural world. It can’t be taught inside. It must be experienced outdoors.
Today is No Child Left Inside Day. If you have a child, take them outside. If you don’t, spend some time in nature yourself and encourage others to do the same. While you are outside, keep in mind the following pillars of nature fluency.
Developing Nature Fluency
Learn To Be Outside – This sounds like an easy one, right? Just walk out the back door. It can be as simple as that, but observing a few rules about nature makes the experience better for other people and the environment. Namely:
- Respect property lines and trails
- Take only pictures, not rock, plant, or shell souvenirs
- Keep it quiet – other people who might be silently observing wildlife
- Learn what is edible and inedible – and only eat with permission
- Respect wildlife and give them space if a trail crosses their path
Observe, Name, and Record – Develop a working vocabulary of the things around you to better describe what you see and track changes from year to year, place to place.
- Watch for what interests you – rocks, flowers, trees, birds, insects, or weather
- Learn the common and scientific names of what you see
- Use a field guide or walk with nature enthusiasts to confirm identifications
- Consider keeping a field log that tracks date, weather, location, and species seen
- Note the season changes in light of your preferred creatures
Appreciate – When confronted with the vast wildness that is observable even in city parks, humans begin to see that we are not alone. Our choices have consequences on the environment. We belong in the circle of life. Sometimes it’s nice to appreciate nature with action:
- Become a member of a society that protects species or land, such as Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy or Duck Hunters Unlimited
- Participate in a clean-up hosted by a local park or watershed group
- Make a drawing, song, or story about what you see in nature
- Advocate for nature education in your schools and community
- Make spending time in nature part of your family routine
- Find ways to include outdoor play and exercise every day
How will you observe No Child Left Indoors day? Alex and Lil will be pressing cider while I am milking a cow on the Ohio dairy tour.