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Nature deficit disorder

August 7, 2016
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

I took a short vacation over the weekend. We traveled a whopping 2.5 hours from here. The trip was to the little community of New Albin, Iowa near Lansing. That is in NE Iowa. A part of Iowa that is very different from around these parts. It was skipped by the last couple of glaciers. I remember Don Menzel, long-time Clayton County Conservation Director, saying that the NE corner of Iowa should have been included with Wisconsin because it matched the terrain so much better.

Don has since moved away from that job and that area of Iowa but if we were gathering together in a county conservation meeting today I would argue that notion with him. What an absolute shame it would be if there wasn't such a diverse amount of habitat types in our Iowa.

Back to our trip. We gathered with our children and our children's children for a short retreat at one of those houses where the owner rents to groups just like ours. So rather a weekend where there were several motel rooms holding our family, there is a nice living space with great kitchen facilities, sleeping areas for each family, and in this case, a small lake with sand beach and kayak options. There was even a hiking trail over to the backyard trout stream.

Of course, Friday afternoon to Sunday noon sped by much too quickly. But it was a great time to enjoy company and spend indoor and outdoor time as a family.

Our grandchildren (four and one on the way) are still young but growing up so quickly. A first grader, a Kindergartener, a four year old and a four month old. At that age, so many outdoor things are new or rare experiences. And these are kids with a Conservation Grandpa, a Zoology Major Grandma, Biology Major Dads, etc. And these are good ole Iowa kids. Not "big city" kids that grow up surrounded by high-rise buildings and acres of concrete as the habitat they know as home. They have had more outdoor education than many others I'm sure.

With all of that said, I started looking on the wonderful internet and found something called Nature Deficit Disorder. Maybe not a real diagnosis or officially recognized malady by the medical community but a real thing in my mind.

According to the article "A Life-Shaping Week: The Outdoor Education Experience" in education.com children who learn and play outdoors have:

Longer attention spans

More creativity

Higher levels of self-confidence

Higher standardized test scores

Greater academic success.

Significant improvements in cognitive development, self-discipline, imaginative and creative expression, language skills, and social interactions.

At this point, I am sure many might be saying "yea, that's a bunch of wasted money on meaningless research". Maybe or maybe not.

Whatever your thinking concerning this research, my experience is that connecting to nature provided me with so many benefits growing up. My outdoor education experience started on the family farm. In my case, it served as the inspiration for what was ultimately a career in conservation. But that nature appreciation could have been carried with me into many different vocations with positive results. It is carried into many folks careers with positive results.

It makes sense to me that we have become so urbanized and indoor- and automobile-bound that most of us don't really understand or experience our individual connections to nature. Everyone needs to increase their time in nature to refresh themselves spiritually and enhance their health.

Exercising by taking long walks in natural settings, even city parks, is not just for the physical exercise, but for communing with nature.

Leave your smart phones and other electronic goodies behind, or at least off, while you expose yourself to nature's tranquil grandeur, whether it's in an urban park, the desert, mountains, seashores, NE Iowa, a county park or someone's farm. Also leave behind your job or career concerns, your cultural manners and behavioral conditioning, and let nature be in charge as your host. I know, easier said than done.

The great composer, Beethoven, lived in country or wooded settings as much as possible to gain inspiration from nature, even more than disconnecting from the clutter and distractions of urban life, (which was less hectic then).

I know for one weekend I disconnected from the clutter and hopefully added to my grandkids' outdoor appreciation.

 
 

 

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