North Star Camp for Boys

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Importance of Nature in Childhood

“Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder 
One of our parents had shared the below Facebook video and it really resonated. There are always a lot of different subtexts to each summer, and one of them over the last few years has been the role that technology plays in our camper's lives. There is no doubting that tablets, smartphones and computers are a part of their day to day life. There is also no denying that technology has opened lots of doors for the kids that we serve.

Unfortunately, all too often, we are seeing that the continued time that kids spend in front of screens closes the doors on other opportunities. One of them is time that kids spend outdoors, in nature. Obviously we believe this is one of the real benefits of the camp experience. We are able to help fill the gap that was kids playing in the neighborhood, exploring nearby woods, and having experiences in nature. This is a big part of why we don't allow our campers access to phones and other devices with video screens. It can be a tough adjustment for campers and their parents alike, but we think that this video illustrates a pretty significant change in our camper's lives versus the lives of their parents.
A week ago we said goodbye to approximately 120 campers for the summer. Part of my role is that I take about 30 of them to the airport, and due to the nature of kids traveling by airplane, the campers get their cell phones back for the trip home. These kids who were detached from their smartphones for the summer were instantaneously sucked back in. Many of them spent the few hours at the airport exclusively on their phones instead of spending time with friends who they weren't going to see until next summer.

There is no doubt that devices aren't going anywhere, but it is up to each of us to help our campers/children find a balance. We don't advocate totally cutting technology out of your kids lives, but finding that balance and setting boundaries is vitally important. Your kids have shown that they are capable of existing for a whole month (or two) without their favorite devices. Use that as a springboard for finding that balance back home.

Time in nature is an essential part of camp, and we truly hope that not only will our campers leave North Star with great memories of their time catching frogs, fishing on the lakes and paddling down rivers, but that when they are telling their own kids about their memories from childhood, these are the stories that they'll tell. We will continue to not only disconnect campers from their devices for the summer, but also create an environment where our campers can discover the role that nature and the outdoors can play in their lives.