I love a lot of things about the modern world: staying in touch has never been easier, driving to the nearest city isn't a three-day horse ride, and pizza right comes to my door. All wins. But getting away from all of that has its own charms and for children, it's a developmental must. My kids joined some friends at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area just outside Saskatoon to spread their wings in nature, and watching them was magic. Little did they know the impact it was having on their growing brains.
We won't dive deep into this because let's face it, I'm just an internet student, but here's a quick toe dip into nature's role in child development. Biophilia means the love of living systems, or life as a whole. It's a term coined by Edward O. Wilson in 1984 who wrote that humans are born with an innate, primal desire to connect with nature. In 2002, Peter Khan and Stephen Kellert dived into the benefits of indulging that urge in their book, Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations when (and I'm really paraphrasing) they found that:
- A nurturing relationship with animals in childhood bodes well for relationships and can help kids on the autism spectrum.
- Nature balances emotion because it isn't particularly depressing or exciting.
- Organization of concepts is learned easily in nature.
Kellert, who is btw a Tweedy/Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (imagine that on a business card) did a great little interview with KPBS about the importance of biophilia in childhood development. My takeaways were that OMG the average person spends 90% of their time indoors! And, that although parents might think the concepts children need to learn are more complex than simple old nature, we forget how extraordinarily diverse the world is. Kellert says it's the best place for children to learn to compartmentalize, problem solve, and critically think in and about our "...dynamic, ambient, changing, uncertain, surprising world that is the world of beyond just ourselves as a single species."
The looks on their faces say it all. Empathy, patience, wonder, connectedness, and a knowing that there are more pieces to the puzzle than people.
Thanks to these beauties and their parents for a beautiful day at Beaver Creek. If you live in Saskatoon, heads up that chickadee feeding season is back and if you don't live here, come visit! Or find your own favourite nature trail that's close and head on out. Don't forget the bird seed.