Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Rewilding" a Child's Mind

An exploratory trip through grandmother's garden is one way to bring nature to children. C. Coimbra photo

Educators and research scientists, Dr. Sarah M. Bexell and Dr. Rick A. Adams, share a concern for a growing challenge in children, called Nature Deficit Disorder. "Nature Deficit Disorder is not a medical condition — it describes our lack of a relationship to the environment. It hurts our children, our families, our communities, and our environment. Luckily, the cure starts in our own backyards," explains the website,

Bexell and Adams serve as directors for Rewilding the Mind Research Institute.  From the website, Rewilding the Mind :

Rewilding the Mind Research Institute (RMRI) is the research arm of the Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch which offers hands-on, immersive naturalistic experiences for kids to inspire emotional links with nature. The focus of RMRI is to research and test innovative methods focused on fostering the human-nature bond and our innate emotional connection with healthy environments and ecosystems (Biophilia, Wilson 1984). RMRI forms partnerships with universities and NGOs in support of research and scholarship on human emotional bonds with nature, the development and disseminate of innovative lesson plans for stimulating Biophilia in any environment, and the training of in-service teachers, degree-program students, and naturalist interpreters. RMRI provides a formalized gateway for faculty and students to conduct research on Biophilia as well as studies on biodiversity and conservation at the Sylvan Dale Ranch field site.

The Challenge: Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD, Louv 2005) is defined as the maladaptive emotional disconnection of children, and thus of future adults, from the natural world in their everyday lives (Louv 2002, Charles 2009, Dickenson 2013). Though NDD is becoming more widely known, there are currently no programs or institutes, until now, specifically designed to address this immense and growing problem. The negative impacts of NDD are profound and include Attention Deficit Disorder, as well as reduced cognitive, emotional, social and physical development (Charles 2009). Moreover, the disconnect of people from nature has produced generations of adults that seem to believe that human existence is possible without functioning ecosystems, but this is far from true. Human existence is fully reliant on healthy ecosystems that oxygenate our atmosphere, remove deadly gases (e.g., CO2), clean our drinking water, buffer the damaging effects of storms and natural disasters while providing for our food and medicines.

Nature Deficit Disorder Research: The Heart J Center brings in hundreds of kids a year providing a rich opportunity for researchers to study the effects of experiential leaning and to help devise innovative ways to engage kids with nature. The development of Ph.D dissertations as well as faculty-driven research are encouraged

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