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Orlando Sentinel: Nature-Deficit Disorder?
            Date: Sunday, August 19, 2007
            Edition: FINAL
            Source: Kumari Kelly, Sentinel Staff Writer 

      ON THE INSIDE LOOKING OUT
      Kids are staying indoors more and more, eschewing nature 

      Two years ago, child advocates sounded the alarm: Children have lost touch
      with nature, resulting in lower test scores, hyperactivity, depression and
      other problems.
      A national author coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" to explain the
      phenomenon. Experts reported that children were being robbed of climbing
      trees and skipping rocks by their parents' fear, their own jammed
      schedules, and addiction to computer and video games.
      Progress on the issue still seems measured more in potential than reality.
      Nature advocates are pleading with Congress not to cut funding for
      agencies with strong nature programs. Recent congressional hearings,
      dubbed "No Child Left Inside," focused on the importance of nature play
      for children.
      And a look by the Orlando Sentinel at four diaries of Central Florida
      children to determine how they spent their "average" summer day shows many
      hours are spent indoors.
      Kaelyn Brown, 7, of Orlando said she likes to climb trees and drag her
      little dolls outside to play. On a typical day, however, Kaelyn spent two
      hours outdoors, according to the Sentinel survey.
      Her mother, Suzy Brown, makes little apology for being cautious about
      letting her daughter play outside. Bugs, traffic, the heat and a fear of
      strangers are all hindrances.
      "I usually feel better when they are indoors because it's more
      controlled," she said.
      Brown isn't alone. Several studies show that parental fear keeps children
      indoors more today than 30 years ago, even when parks are available.
      Authorities who have published studies on the child-nature connection
      include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization,
      The Trust for Public Land, the American Medical Association, and several
      universities.
      National- and regional-parks officials have called on Congress to help.
      Funding for programs that support outdoor recreation is paramount, says
      Richard Dolesh, head of the National Recreation and Park Association, who
      recently spoke at the congressional hearing.
      He jokingly said we need "dog parks for kids," or safe places where
      children could be turned loose to simply run, play, climb a tree and
      experience nature with abandon. The problem, he says, has reached "crisis
      proportions."
      Child-development experts, pediatricians and outdoor-recreation advocates
      will meet again this fall in the Midwest for another national symposium on
      the issue.
      In addition to fear, parents' sedentary lifestyles limit some children's
      exposure to nature, experts say.
      The diaries the Sentinel looked at gave insight into the need for parents
      to get involved in getting their children outdoors. Some kids spent hours
      playing video games. If they did go outside, it often was for a
      recreational pursuit such as swimming, not simply experiencing nature.
      DeeDee Pizutti, 12, a middle-schooler from Clermont, says she rarely
      participates in any nature activity such as camping or hiking, but she
      does enjoy swimming with friends and practicing volleyball for the school
      team. She recently went fishing with her father at a nearby lake.
      "There were way too many bugs, so I left really early," she said.
      What does she do for much of a typical summer day?
      "Talk online to friends," she said.
      One teen, though, found a way to wedge it all in by staying up until 3
      a.m. for his computer time.
      Sterling Thompson, 17, of Mount Dora, found time for four hours of video
      games, a four-hour beach kayaking trip, and two hours to cook dinner. He
      also plays in an orchestra, participates in organized sports, designs Web
      sites and hikes in places such as the Grand Canyon.
      "I don't really make a concerted effort to go outside," he said. He just
      does what comes naturally. Sometimes that involves going outside;
      sometimes it does not.
      While it works for Sterling, if many children take a willy-nilly approach
      to nature, they might never see a forest, experts say.
      In a survey by the National Recreation and Park Association, nearly 30
      percent of the nation's local parks said they don't have nature programs
      and 40 percent don't have areas devoted to nature.
      Even while Florida's state park attendance broke records with 19.5 million
      visitors last year, some of those parks lack hands-on programs and
      activities for young children. If more money were pumped into programs,
      however, 91 percent of the nation's parks without nature programs said
      they would develop them.
      In the May hearings, advocates asked Congress to spare some programs
      important to nature-based child play, such as the Land and Water
      Conservation Fund, which has assisted in funding almost 41,000 local and
      state park and conservation projects in seven years.
      Children's advocates such as Richard Louv -- author of Last Child in the
      Woods, in which the term "nature-deficit disorder" was described -- are
      still calling for change.
      Parents and grandparents, though, need not wait on the government to do
      something, one nature lover says.
      Lee Wheeler, owner of the 213-acre Horse World Riding Stable in Kissimmee,
      takes long walks with her young grandson, often stopping for a picnic
      along the way. She gets her exercise, he learns about nature, and both of
      them have some together time.
      "It's not a child's fault their life is the way it is," Wheeler said. "You
      have to make that time and make that happen. [Outdoor play] doesn't just
      happen automatically anymore." 

      Illustration: PHOTO: Camryn Brown, 4, takes a peek outside recently.
      Camryn and her sister Kaelyn, 7, play mostly indoors. Their mom says she
      prefers the indoors because it is `controlled.'
      JULIE FLETCHER/ORLANDO SENTINEL
      PHOTO: Kaelyn Brown, 7, plays with a `hair dryer' in her Orlando home
      recently. Kaelyn says she enjoys climbing trees, but in a 24-hour log she
      kept recently, only 2 hours were spent outdoors. Studies show that
      parental fear keeps children indoors more today than 30 years ago. Other
      factors such as video games are also cited.
      JULIE FLETCHER/ORLANDO SENTINEL
      PHOTO: Brianna Phillips, 10, learns to ride a horse recently with her
      mother at the Horse World Riding Stables in Kissimmee. Congressional `No
      Child Left Inside' hearings in May focused on how kids benefit from
nature.
      KIRSTINA SANGSAHACHART/ORLANDO SENTINEL
      PHOTO: Matthew Young, 6, and his grandfather go fishing several times a
      week at the Horse World Riding Stables. Advocates have asked Congress to
      spare programs important to nature-based child play.
      KIRSTINA SANGSAHACHART/ORLANDO SENTINEL
      .
      BOX: TAKING KIDS OUTSIDE
      Orange County
      Harry P. Leu Gardens
      1920 N. Forest Ave.
      Orlando
      407-246-2620
      The botanical gardens have three miles of paved scenic walkways that take
      you through 50 acres of gardens and a butterfly garden.
      Tosohatchee State
      Reserve
      3365 Taylor Creek Road
      Christmas
      407-568-5893
      Park Rangers offer special tours and programs on a rotating basis, so call
      for details.
      Rock Springs Run
      State Reserve
      Wekiwa Springs State Park
      1800 Wekiwa Circle
      Apopka
      407-884-2008
      Rock Springs Run State Reserve offers 17 miles of hiking and
      horseback-riding trails through a variety of native plant communities.
      Wekiwa Springs
      State Park
      1800 Wekiwa Circle
      Apopka
      407-884-2008
      The park also features canoeing, diving, boating, camping, hiking, picnic
      areas and fishing.
      Kelly Park
      400 E. Kelly Park Road
      Apopka
      407-889-4179
      The major attraction is Rock Springs, which bubbles up from a rock
      outcropping and flows into a meandering stream where families go tubing.
      University of Central
      Florida Arboretum
      4000 Central Florida Blvd.
      Orlando
      407-823-2978
      The 80-acre UCF Arboretum allows visitors to walk a self-guided tour.
      Seminole County
      Big Tree Park
      761 General Hutchinson Parkway
      Longwood
      407-788-0405
      Big Tree Park is home to one of Florida's most famous natural landmarks.
      "The Senator" is a 3,500-year-old baldcypress tree, thought to be the
      oldest living tree in the United States.
      Lake County
      Florida Scrub Jay Trail
      11490 Montevista Road
      Clermont
      352-429-5566
      The trail offers views of the endangered scrub-jay in their prime habitat.
      Children are welcomed here to participate in plantings and educational
      tours.
      Lake Louisa State Park
      7305 U.S. Highway 27
      Clermont
      352-394-3969
      Set on the shores of Lake Louisa, the 4,000-acre state park offers fishing
      in four lakes, as well as designated trails for horseback riding.
      Trout Lake Nature Center
      County Road 44, east of State Road 19
      Eustis
      352-357-7536
      The 230-acre reserve has a 1,000-foot-long boardwalk extending into Trout
      Lake, interpretive trails, a museum-classroom center and an
      environmental-education center.
      Volusia County
      Blue Spring State Park
      2100 W. French Ave.
      Orange City
      386-775-3663
      This is a refuge for the West Indian manatee, one of Florida's most widely
      known endangered species, and the clear spring also is well-known as a
      prime spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
      Osceola County
      Lake Kissimmee
      State Park
      14248 Camp Mack Road
      Lake Wales
      863-696-1112
      Located on the water with miles of trails and much wildlife, this park is
      marked by a 1800s-style "cowboy" camp that retells life of a Florida
      Cracker.
      The Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve
      2700 Scrub Jay Trail
      Kissimmee 407-935-0002
      This 12,000-acre natural habitat has a 3-mile hiking trail.
      To read more
      thefuturesedge.com
      Journalist and child advocate Richard Louv has written seven books
      including Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit
      Disorder.
      canopymeg.com
      Margaret Lowman, also known as "Canopy Meg," a professor at New College of
      Florida in Sarasota, is the author of It's a Jungle Out There, which tells
      of her work in tropical-rain-forest exploration, conservation and the
      challenges of raising two sons.
      .
      BOX: DID YOU KNOW?
      National Park attendance is down more than 20 percent in the past 20 years
      despite population growth, but the average person spent 327 more hours per
      year with entertainment media in 2003 than they did in 1987.
      Sales of children's bikes dropped 21 percent from 2001 to 2004, according
      to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.
      Thirty-eight percent of ecologists, surveyed on why they chose their job,
      said they were hooked on nature by middle school; 70 percent said their
      passion for learning came outside the classroom -- often outdoors.
      Twenty-seven percent of at-risk youth, most of whom had never spent time
      in nature at all, showed better classroom behavior, problem-solving
      skills, self-esteem and cooperation after a weeklong nature-based outdoor
      program in 2005, according to a study by the American Institutes for
      Research. A control group that did not experience the outdoors did not
      show such results.
      Eight-year-olds were more familiar with 10 Pokemon characters than 10
      common wildlife species in a British study.
      Children's unscheduled time has dropped 12 percent from 1981 to 1997 and 4
      percent more from 1997 to 2003, leaving less time available to play, but
      in the same time, computer use doubled, according to a study available at
      www.popcenter.umd.edu and titled "Changes in Children's Time, 1997-2002/3:
      An Update, 2006."
      SOURCE: Children & Nature Network Research and Studies, Vol. I and II
      .
      BOX: A CHILD'S LIFE
      The Orlando Sentinel asked four kids -- with some help from their parents
      -- to keep tabs on how they spent one 24-hour period playing. Here is what
      one wrote:
      Kaelyn Brown, Orlando
      Age: 7
      Parents: Suzi Brown, Orlando guide for babyzone.com and parentzone.com,
      and Wes Brown
      Friday
      9 a.m.-ish: Wake up, eat breakfast and watch TV
      10 a.m.: Color pictures and watch TV
      10:30 a.m.: Play with sister (age 4)
      11 a.m.: Still playing with Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies
      11:30 Get dressed and clean up toys
      Noon: Eat lunch
      12:30 p.m.: Run errands with Mom and sister
      2 p.m.: Meet up with friend to swim
      3 p.m.: Still swimming
      4 p.m.: Playing Barbies inside with friend
      4:30 p.m.: Pack up and head home
      5 p.m.: Go home and play with sister
      5:30 p.m.: Play Leapster, educational computer game
      6 p.m.: Eat dinner
      6:30 p.m.: Practice kicking soccer ball in backyard
      7 p.m.: Play with dogs outside
      7:30 p.m.: Go inside and help clean up toys
      8 p.m.: Play with sister and Daddy
      8:15 p.m.: Take a shower and get ready for bed
      8:45 p.m.: Get into bed and read for a little bit
      9:30 p.m.: Asleep
      Total outside playtime: About two hours.
      -30-

Discussion

One thought on “Orlando Sentinel: Nature-Deficit Disorder?

  1. The are closing the stables at Cypress point. What do you recommend for people in Orlando?

    Posted by Kissimmee Appraisal | November 19, 2008, 2:24 pm

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