I was, once, the last child in the woods. Literally. I’d managed to separate myself from the rest of my class on a 3rd-grade field trip to the local nature center (mostly on account of holding back on the trail because of the odds of encountering poison ivy or snakes in the area my friends were exploring). An unfriendly teacher found me later, still waiting for my companions to reemerge from the foliage, and sent me back to school on another bus, my classmates already having left the area.
That is probably not what Richard Louv means by Last Child in the Woods, his book that “explores the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change” and “also describes the accumulating research that reveals the necessity of contact with nature for the healthy child—and adult—development.” Even so, it might be meant for someone like me.
It would not be untrue to say I am not an outdoorsy type of person. It’s not that I am opposed to the outdoors (with the exception of snakes and poison ivy). I spent a lot of time playing in the woods as a kid, a tree fort one of my favorite places to pass the time. When my children were of the optimum age for such things, I did my share of tent camping and I can be very happy lounging on a fishing boat. Even today I keep a small garden in my yard and visit it daily. But I can also miss the best of nature even when it is looming over me. When I visited Yosemite with a friend a few years ago, she wanted to walk a few miles up a certain trail to see the giant redwoods. I agreed, with some muttering and reluctance brought on by the cumulative effects of a few months of fatigue. When we reached the top of the hill, I promptly sat down on a fence rail, my back to the tree we’d hiked all that way to see.
Louv recalls a television ad that “depicts a four-wheel-drive SUV racing along a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream—while in the back seat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen, oblivious to the landscape and water beyond the windows.” He writes about the connection between the natural world and creativity, leadership, and physical and emotional health of both children and adults, something of great benefit for those of us who are prone to easily become one of those children in the back seat, suffering at least mildly from “nature-deficit disorder.”
It is in that spirit that we announce our upcoming book club discussion of Last Child in the Woods. We’ll explore the importance of this connection of children (and adults) with the world of nature, and find ways to explore the woods, so to speak, in our own way.
Poison ivy not included.
Watch an interview with author Richard Louv
May 17: Introduction, Parts I & II
May 24: Parts III & IV
May 31: Parts V, VI & VII
Photo by Jason Devaun, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by LW Lindquist.