Folks ask why we love mud so much, and we love this question! We are always happy to share more about our education philosophy. It’s a fact that modern childhood has moved indoors. On average, American children spend between 4 and 7 minutes a day engaged in unstructured outdoor play and as many as 7 hours a day in front of an electronic screen. This national trend has paralleled an alarming growth in childhood obesity and prescribed pharmaceuticals for kids. Many kids are tuned out, stressed out and over-scheduled. Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle author Richard Louv calls this Nature-Deficit Disorder. And this is not limited to just kids, as it can also be seen in adults, families, and whole communities.
The great news is that there’s a clear path towards addressing the challenges of disconnection–play outside! Pediatricians are now prescribing a daily dose of time in Nature, known as “Vitamin N.” Youth and adults who regularly spend time outdoors enjoy priceless befits to mind, body and spirit, including improved physical health and professional or academic success through enhanced skills in leadership, self-awareness, self-confidence, communication, critical thinking and creativity. There’s a wealth of information online about the importance of connecting kids to nature thanks to the Children and Nature Network, co-founded by Richard Louv, and we highly suggest checking it out.
As we educate children and families about the outdoors during our nature-mentoring programs, we are also working to rebuild a culture of nature connection in our community. While simply spending time in nature is an very important habit, what we call a core routine, creating a lasting culture of nature connection in ourselves, our families and our neighborhood requires a complex, multi-layered application of principles that are immersed in the 8 Shields Model. At BOAT CAMP Nature School, we are committed to this effort for the benefit of creating healthier kids, stronger families, a thriving greater Newburyport community, and a flourishing planet.
We are the only environmental organization in Essex County using a model of education derived from indigenous methods of teaching children by using tools and techniques from earth-based cultures that have been time-tested across thousands of years. Our programs are infused with principles and practices that emerged from a collaborative effort worldwide led by Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute, and offer an alternative to traditional environmental education. Through a carefully crafted set of invisible intentions we craft into our days, and an equally passionate willingness to abandon all plans when nature offers up something else, we are creating an invisible school where deep knowledge follows individual curiosity. It is beyond the cutting edge—it is the forming edge of creating nature-based learning that will inspire a future generation of earth-minded stewards. In this short video, Jon Young shares more…
…and this longer conversation with our friend, Mark Morey:
If you’d like to learn more about nature mentoring, contact Kate or Debbie, read through Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature, or attend the next Art of Mentoring workshop in Vermont with us in 2013–it’s an awesome experience.
Wild Nature Play
All of our programs involve time to play in nature, because this is where the taproot of deep connection to the earth–land or sea–takes hold. We intentionally create time to allow for kids to get muddy, run wild, build forts, race hand-made driftwood boats, dig to China, search for buried pirate treasure, climb trees, catch frogs in swamps, paint themselves in charcoal, or do penguin slides across mud flats. While kids think they are just playing, and many marvel at these moments of freedom for unstructured outdoor time, we know that recent studies have proven that childhood experiences such as these–and not the more traditional forms of environmental education as found over the past 30 or so years in 4H programs, nature centers, and scouting–directly lead to adults who are active stewards of the earth in practice or profession, or both. Kids who connect to the land on their own terms through childhood play are scientifically proven to grow to be adults who are active environmental stewards. You can read more about this in David Sobel’s summer 2012 essay in Orion magazine, “Look, Don’t Touch: The problem with Environmental Education.”
Further, we share the growing concern that while preservation of conservation land is important, an equally important goal is to ensure its care by future generations. As Nicholas D Kristof wrote in the New York Times on July 28, 2012, “To guarantee wilderness in the long run, we first need to ensure a constituency for it. Environmentalists focus on preserving wilderness, because that’s the immediate priority, but they perhaps should be as energetic at getting young people to interact with it. We need more Americans working through their challenges, like Cheryl Strayed, by hurling boots off precipices. We need more schools and universities to offer classes on the wild, in the wild — with extra credit for students who get lost.”
At BOAT CAMP Nature School, we are working to cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards by creating time and space for wild outdoor play to build deep nature connection in ourselves, our families and our community.
The influence and importance of the ocean in our daily cannot be understated, and the seven essential principles of Ocean Literacy are woven throughout our time together:
1. Earth has one big ocean with many features.
2. The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.
3. The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.
4. The ocean makes Earth habitable.
5. The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
6. The ocean and humans are inextricably linked.
7. The ocean is largely unexplored.
For more information on Ocean Literacy, please visit the Ocean Literacy Network.