I recently got in touch with Kenny Ballentine, the founder of the Nature Kids Institute and an award-winning film maker. I wrote an article for his blog (which you can view here) and he kindly sent me a copy of his new documentary, “Nature Kids“. I was so excited when I received it and the documentary was amazing. It featured people from so many different backgrounds and jobs to speak about the disconnection children now have with nature. It made me realize that this is really a crisis that we are facing- and I was also inspired by the real life stories of kids who found a change in their lives even when they spent a little time outdoors.
I just wanted to a share a few things from the documentary that I really enjoyed.
The documentary starts with how adults spent their childhood days in comparison with us today. The people featured recalled how they spent their childhood playing in the woods, spending hours together outdoors, coming back late in the day. They would never run out of things to do in nature. One lady even said that the experiences of nature that she had, made her the person she is today.
In comparison, Scott D.Sampson, a palaeontologist brought out the fact that children these days don’t have much ‘unstructured’ play. Instead, it’s all about stuffing information into a child’s mind, as early as we possibly can. Studies have shown that this trend does not really make us smarter or more engaged as adults. Instead, play is essential for a child’s learning and development and we don’t have enough of it as we used to before.
Eric Nelson, the director of the Outdoor Classroom Project said that having enough time in nature and being physically active is what leads to success in all ways for a young child. So it is important for a child in its first 5 years when the brain is blossoming, to have experiences in nature because it will keep them happy and healthy- physically, emotionally and physiologically.
Interesting experiences in Nature
Sam “Oak” Johnson, founder of “Out on a Limb Tree Climbing” got interested in climbing trees because he was curious about the ‘vertical’ world. He said that we spend so much time exploring the land below so he wanted to explore what was above on the trees so he started climbing and bringing children up as well. He says he sees all the human emotions when children are out in nature, and loves bringing people up trees because they are beautiful places and so many trees haven’t been climbed up.
A 12 year old boy who climbed with Sam said that he finds video games fun but they get pretty boring and there should be enough time to play outdoors. I loved it when he said “It’s one thing to sit near a screen and pretend to play some stuff and its another thing to live it”.
One thing I found really unique was that a family actually went hiking 31,00 miles in the Rocky Mountains in 1998, bringing their 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son along. They brought their backpacks on lamas. The parents said that there wasn’t any better way to parent their children and spending 24 hours all day with their family in the outdoors brought them so close together. In 2013, the children- Sierra and Bryce say that even though they were kind of ‘forced’ to be close in the 6 years they spent alone, later on in life when they moved into different environments they are still very close to each other and the family because of the experience they had in the wilderness.
I really like the idea of having outdoor classrooms. In the film I actually learnt about them and their purpose.
For example, the “Nature Explore” classrooms in Arbor Day Farm have real, nature based materials like wood and plants instead of composite structures that are in playgrounds. Outdoor learning it provides a basis for skills such as algebra and geometry as kids get to hold and play around with 3D objects. Later when they learn about it they can remember those engagements and will probably find it easier. I wish I had that experience because I find Algebra and Geometry particularly hard at school!!
Do watch the full documentary!
You can get the hard copy here.
Thank you Kenny once again, for sending me the DVD. I really enjoyed it and I’m excited to see your upcoming films!
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