Children’s lives today are significantly different than they were just 1-2 generations ago. As a general rule, children today have fewer opportunities for outdoor free play or regular contact with nature. Their physical boundaries have shrunk and they experience less autonomy today than they did in the 60’s and 70’s.
A 2011 Planet Ark Study showed that 1 in 10 children today play outside once per week or less.1 Children’s free time has become structured and watched over by adults. Technology dictates their lives and Australian children of all ages are too sedentary and not physically active enough. Only 19% of young people in the 5-17 year age bracket, meet the national daily physical activity guidelines (60mins/day) while only 29% are meeting the sedentary behaviour screen time guidelines (<2hrs/day).2 Children are losing their understanding that nature and opportunity exists in their own backyards and neighborhoods. Richard Louv, called this phenomenon, ‘naturedeficit disorder’.
The long term impact of nature deficit, is the loss of future environmental stewards. Sir David Attenborough said, no one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they have never experienced.
The current direction in our schools is to focus on educating children to become the innovators of tomorrow. Ensuring children are exposed to curriculum connected to nature will ensure that the highly capable students of today, will be the environmental stewards of tomorrow.
Our aim in Australian schools is to ensure that all young people are supported to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens (MCEETYAA) 2008. We need students who learn through experience, who understand and make sense of the world and their place within it.
John Dewey, a hundred years ago warned of the ‘pedagogical fallacy’ that everything children learn they have to be taught: “Children are people, they grow into tomorrow only as they live today.”