Trace back the story of almost any of us who care about and devote ourselves to conserving natural lands and waters, and it all goes back to a the seed of experiencing Nature as a child, whether in the woods nearby or simply the garden or a city park. 

Yet on average, North American children now spend about seven hours a day in front of a screen, but less than 7 minutes outside. (Gulp!)

And that has impacts not only for the health and development of children, but for the lands and waters that they - and all of us - depend on.

Recent research is showing that experiences in nature benefit the health and development of children. The benefits of regular exposure to nature include relieving stress, depression, and attention deficits. It has been shown to help reduce bullying, combat obesity, and boost academic scores. Studies suggest that abundant time in natural settings improves cognitive development by allowing children to make more discoveries and cultivating curiosity and wonder.

"If sustainability depends on transforming human relationships with nature, the present-day gap between kids and nature emerges as one of the greatest and overlooked crises of our time," says paleontologist/biologist and science communicator Scott Sampson. 

The solution? A bad (good!) case of topophilia.

First Graders explore on the Quincy Learning Landscape
Simply put, topophilia is a love of place. And we think this is essential for supporting healthy children, and helping them develop a strong land stewardship ethic.

In his new book, "How to Raise a Wild Child," Sampson argues that bonding between humans and nature is most effective when it is initiated in childhood. And fostering a close bond through abundant time in a single, local place, is likely to be more effective than periodic visits to lots of different places. 

This is the vision of Learning Landscapes - to create a deep connection to place among the schoolchildren in the Feather River country.

Learning Landscapes is FRLT’s conservation and education program designed to greatly enhance children’s contact with the natural world, place-based learning, and hands-on stewardship experiences.

Together with you, we are conserving natural areas as Outdoor Classrooms within a 10-minute walk of every public school in the Upper Feather River Watershed and supporting their educational use.

By creating opportunities for teachers and students to experience and steward the same landscape year after year, we aim to create a culture of care that more than 2,900 students per year will carry with them for their lifetimes.

Our vision is that no matter where they eventually settle, children of the Upper Feather River will have learned how to get to know a place, to love a place, and to take care of a place.

You can help

As we start the new school year, we need your financial help. Learning Landscapes is funded by the Land Trust, small family foundations, and generous donors like you.

Please give as generously as you can and help us grow the next generation of stewards for the Feather River Country. (Choose "Learning Landscapes" in the Donation Type menu). Thank you!

Suggested Reading:

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature, Scott D. Sampson

Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv



Wednesday, August 26, 2015