Get Out There! Only you can prevent Nature-Deficit Disorder

Does this look like a scary place to you? To many parents, it does. According to Richard Louv, whose latest book Last Child in the Woods is creating quite a stir, many children suffer from Nature-Deficit Disorder, in which children are spending less time outdoors with resulting problems such as obesity, attention-deficit disorder, and depression. Louv found that “stranger danger” is the #1 reason for parents’ keeping their kids from going outside. Other reasons are overplanned schedules and other environmental concerns.

According to the Center for Environmental Health, children’s contact with nature helps to ease attention-deficit disorder, aids cognitive development, enhances creativity, and reduces stress. And of course, with obesity at a critical level in this country, kids need to be running around outside now more than ever. A new report by the Nature Conservancy states that attendance has been falling at America’s national parks since the 1980s. They blame videophilia, but we can also see connections with Louv’s findings. Other reports indicate that early positive experience with nature fosters a strong sense of stewardship and environmental responsibility. In other words, if we want the next generation to take care of the planet, we’d better let them play outside on it now.

Clare Cooper Marcus has written a lot about the differences between children who play in organized, planned playgrounds and the more organic “adventure playgrounds” where kids use all sorts of different materials to build their own play structures.

Listen to an NPR report about Louv,
“Saving Kids from ‘Nature Deficit Disorder,” and read an article about him in The Hartford Courant: “Losing Touch With Nature.” There’s also a great interview with Louv on Grist.

Take Action:

Two of my favorite websites on this subject are Louv’s organization, the Children & Nature Network, www.cnaturenet.org and The National Wildlife Federation’s The Green Hour, www.greenhour.org.

Even as adults, we can let our fears of sun damage, insect borne-disease like Lyme and West Nile, or even just slipping and falling on the ice keep us from venturing outside. It’s important to balance your fears with the benefits of going outside – Vitamin D from the sun, exercise, reduced stress levels, a change of scenery, the potential for wonder and discovery.

So go on, get off the computer now and go outside to PLAY!

Hope in Bloom – Gardens for Breast Cancer Patients

Hope in Bloom is a 501(c)(3) charity that provides gardens free of charge at the homes of women and men who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer (yes, men can get it, too). They began planting in the summer of 2007 and have installed two dozen gardens in Massachusetts (note that they are only planting gardens in MA, for now). Founded by Roberta Dehman Hershon, Hope in Bloom is based in Massachusetts, but plans to expand to other states in the future. From their website, www.hopeinbloom.org:

“Hope in Bloom gardens offer people a beautiful, tranquil place to sit, reflect and escape from the world of doctors, hospitals and sickness. We create life-affirming indoor or outdoor gardens (container, patio or in-ground) for any breast cancer patient undergoing treatment who requests one (the garden may be planted after treatment is over, but must be requested during treatment). All have symbols of life including color, texture, fragrance and sound incorporated into their design. Each garden is tailored to the recipient’s residential situation and lifestyle.”

Here’s a quote from one of their recipients:

“Thank you so much for my beautiful garden. What a transformation! After it was planted, I thought I would nap but instead found myself returning again and again to the garden with the energy of a puppy. That was a strange, magical, joyous feeling. After eight years of treatment, I am used to being tired and depleted. Today I have found myself swelling with a surge that I can only describe as hope.

I am tempted to wrap myself in a blanket and sleep in the hammock chair amidst the new plantings. Even at night I can see the blossoms. I am nourished by the beauty of the space, and by all of the caring everyone put into creating it. It’s the combination of the two that makes it a place of renewal and healing.

I’m here not just because of medical advances that knock down the cancer, but because of gifts such as the garden that give me a more profound strength.”

Hope in Bloom welcomes donations of funding, time (design, installation, and maintenance) and materials (plant material, pots, garden furniture).

Healing Gardens = Happy Employees, too

A less frequently publicized benefit of healing gardens in healthcare facilities is a lower staff turnover rate. Healing gardens are being used to draw and to keep good employees.

Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette, CO is advertising for jobs on Cross Country Travel Corps, http://www.crosscountrytravcorps.com/cctc/jobs/facility_showcases/exempla.jsp, and just look at how many of their points emphasize outdoor space at their facility:

Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital is a 477,000-foot facility situated on 77 acres. This 172-bed hospital (with potential to expand to 350 beds as the community grows) features:

  • Spacious private patient rooms
  • State-of-the-art equipment
  • Mountain and garden views
  • Walking trails
  • Incorporation of natural landscaping to capture the essence of Colorado
  • A central healing garden
  • Soothing water features and colorful flowers
  • Room Service
  • Integrative Care (aromatheraphy, acupuncture, massage therapy)