Many of us who are connected with the Maine Outdoor Coalition can relate to this. As kids, we were allowed to roam free, create imaginary worlds and fortresses, and get dirty. I know I spent countless hours as a kid building elaborate snow forts, and one of my fondest childhood memories was sitting inside a giant igloo my dad helped me build in the backyard reading stories and eating cookies by candlelight.
But – we all know the latest buzzwords and trends: nature deficit disorder, too much screen time, kids are disconnected with the outdoors, etc, etc. Many of the MOC members are directly working to address this disconnect – coordinating programs to help get kids outside and working together to make sure these barriers are lowered across the state. But are we reaching kids in the right way? Are we giving them the same opportunities to play that we enjoyed when we were kids?
I recently stumbled upon this really interesting article from Slate questioning the relevancy of the Leave No Trace principles and the rules we set up in our parks and natural spaces. Here’s an excerpt from the article, Let Kids Run Wild in the Woods by Emma Marris:
It was the kid with the rocks that finally did it for Matthew Browning.
Browning was a ranger at Mount Mitchell State Park in North Carolina, and along with the other rangers he had been trained to give a little speech to children caught picking flowers, pocketing shells, or trying to make off with rocks. He explains it like this: “You are supposed to calmly kneel down and say, ‘I saw you picking the flower. That is so pretty! Now think about what would happen if every child picked a flower.’ And then they are supposed to have this moment of guilt.”
Browning had given this little talk many times. But on this day, in August 2009, he saw another ranger deliver it to a boy at the park restaurant, about age 8, with a fist full of rocks—rocks, Browning noticed, from the gravel road. “It was gravel we bought at the local store,” Browning says. “It made me sick. The boy was crestfallen. He was so excited about coming to the park that he wanted to take a little memento back with him. More than feeling empowered or excited to protect the natural world, now he is going to associate going to state parks with getting into trouble.”
I encourage you to read the full article here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/kid_play_zones_in_parks_leave_no_trace_inhibits_fun_and_bonding_with_nature.html
What do you think? Do you agree with Marris?