This summer we traveled to the West to revive in the midst of nature. We felt the rhythm of the Pacific tide, were humbled as we stood in a cathedral of Redwoods and procured strength from the ancient land-forms rising from the Earth. The beauty and stillness of the natural spaces seeped into our depleted bodies and provided nourishment and serenity. As our human days spin, it is comforting to know that there are spaces in the world that exist without expectation or demands.
As we traveled, we read the stories and histories of the collaboration between the many naturalists, environmentalists and the philanthropists who protected these spaces for future generations knowing that the survival of humanity depended on their work.
Will our children be compelled to fight for these spaces?
What do these spaces mean to our children? Have they spent idle hours laying in the grass looking up at the sky, climbed a tree when feeling lonely, jumped into a leaf pile after raking it and played without interruption with peers? Have their bodies felt exhausted from scaling the banks of a stream, carrying rocks to build a damn and walking back up a hill after sleighing down it? Do they understand that a walk on a path can clear their mind, slow their beating heart and reassure their anxieties?
Children understanding science or mastering facts will not ensure stewardship of natural spaces. The next generation must have a deep love, connection, respect and reverence for nature. They must PLAY in these wild spaces.
|Adults and families building structures on the beach in the Northwest.|
Quotes from Richard Louv regarding the importance of outdoor play for children
One reason for this is the risk-taking inherent in outdoor play, which plays an important role in child development. Without independent play, the critical cognitive skill called executive function is at risk. Executive function is a complex process, but at its core is the ability to exert self-control, to control and direct emotion and behavior. Children develop executive function in large part through make-believe play. The function is aptly named: When you make up your own world, you’re the executive. A child’s executive function, as it turns out, is a better predictor of success in school than IQ.