Reading something Richard Louv wrote recently inspired me to write the post from which this is excerpted.

Perseverance, discipline, responsibility and independence are learned skills. I will differentiate skills from knowledge in that knowledge can be contained in books whereas skills are learned only by doing and usually by trial and error. The process of acquiring skills is, I think, hugely important to the development of people. In the process of acquiring other skills, like playing an instrument, baking, or building a car for example, you pick up side skills along the way. These side skills include, but aren't necessarily limited to, perseverance, discipline, responsibility and independence. ...

So what does this have to do with nature? A lot, actually. The children I am seeing have grown up in controlled environments and have spent more time in structured play than in imaginative free play. When I ask them what they do with their free time they say they play video games--rules are fixed and immutable, watch DVDs--a completely passive activity, go to movies or shop--consumptive and passive. Please do not think that I believe that there is no role for this technology. None of these activities are intrinsically bad in and of themselves. I just think that structured play needs to be balanced with a hefty dose of unstructured free roaming play. I believe this more strongly because of the response I get if I ask if my students play outside: they say "it's too hot and too boring." These kids don't know how to make their own constructive fun because they have never had to.

Read the rest at TheNatureSchool.

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Comment by Laura Lamarre Anderson on March 20, 2010 at 5:15pm
I am helping to start a PTO at the school where I teach. One of my long term goals is to help families find ways to get kids outdoors. The city kids I work with are often confined indoors because of childcare issues. I think the school can help families by providing safe places for exploration outdoors. The tricky part will be balancing safety concerns with autonomy. I agree that there is great value in unstructured play, but I also understand the plight of over-worked families.
Comment by beth chase on March 20, 2010 at 5:06am
Sarah, Thank for your comment. Yes, I agree with the "spoon fed" attitude that people have. I also think that there is something of a comfort factor going on. I mean, let's face it, when you are outside being noshed on by mosquitoes and dealing with the the heat or the cold, you can be uncomfortable if you are not so engaged you don't notice.

I have been watching your posts on the Cabin Path Home School Programs. I am fascinated by them. I look forward to more.
Comment by Sarah Crutchfield on March 19, 2010 at 6:27am
Let's face it...too many children (parents, too) are spoon fed their entertainment! Creativity and imagination are becoming lost arts..."nothing to do" in nature???
Oh my....they don't know what they are missing!

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