Experience Nature: Fighting NDD and EA

Written by Audrey Monke, Director of  Gold Arrow Camp

Experience Nature: Fighting NDD and EA

“Nature Deficit Disorder” (NDD), coined by Richard Louv, and “Electronics Addiction” (EA – coined by yours truly and others) can both be combated by a camp experience. When was the last time your kid hiked through the woods or got a mosquito bite? For that matter, when was the last time your child took out their headphones or turned off their cell phone? In Lenore Skenazy’s book, Free Range Kids, she elaborates on how we have somehow skewed parenting into something resembling packing our kids in bubble wrap and avoiding all experiences in order to avoid any negative ones. We live in fear of all the “what ifs” and end up not allowing our children any freedom. Electronics fill in the gap nicely. In Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, he talks about what our kids are missing out on from not being exposed to nature. He coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to refer to a generation of kids who may never experience nature because it’s too “scary” or foreign to them. He predicts they will grow into adults who prefer staying inside with their TVs, computers, and other electronics.

Most camps have “electronics free” policies and don’t allow campers to bring electronic games, cell phones, computers, etc. While disconnecting from technology, campers learn to relate better to other people, face to face, without headphones on or a cell phone in hand. This break from electronics is great for kids, as they quickly learn that they can get by without them. In this technology-crazed world, camp is one of the few remaining bastions of freedom from electronics.

Gone are the days when kids spent hours playing unsupervised in the fresh air, making up games, finding bugs, and just being kids. Instead, childhood activities are mostly structured and adult-supervised. Play dates are organized by parents and almost never spontaneous. While camp activities are supervised, kids still get an enormous amount of exposure to nature, a sense of freedom, and a chance to make new friends. For many first-time campers, camp is their first chance to sleep outdoors, gain a love for recreational activities ranging from archery to sailing, and see what the stars look like away from city lights. The love and respect for nature that camp experiences foster in our kids may ensure that they grow up to be adults who care what happens to their world. And who get off their computers and go outside once in a while.