Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thoughts on kids and camp

Roundtop peeking over the neighboring hill
Ah, another Tuesday, another day of adventure camp. For once the weather held no threat of anything—neither thunder nor heat nor anything nasty. In fact, the weather was perfect—clear and cool. The kids had a good session, too. One group caught the mother of all crayfish. Really, the thing was like a small lobster. And it was finally caught in a net, after what seemed like hours of kids screaming directions and advice to the kid who was holding the net. When it was finally landed, they all cheered. I know the kids are having fun. I just hope that translates into spending more time in the outdoors.

My general impression of the kids is that they don’t have nearly as much knowledge of the outdoors as the kids I worked with even four or five years ago. By the time I was their ages, I had caught countless crayfish, knew the names of lots of birds, knew what poison ivy looked like and didn’t scream every time I saw an insect. These kids can’t tell a robin from a goose, don’t know enough to look in puddles for frogs or interesting animal tracks and don’t even try to be quiet when they are walking through the woods. With the kids I see, very basic knowledge of the outdoors is missing. What’s perhaps even scarier is that these are the kids who are interested enough to come to an adventure camp in the first place. What the kids are like who don’t want to come to adventure camp, I can’t even guess. And remember, these aren’t kids who’ve spent their lives in a city for the most part either. They are kids from small and medium-sized towns and the suburbs.

What I’m afraid that will eventually translate into are large numbers of adults with very limited or very shallow knowledge of the natural world. In the future, as we face ever more extreme weather, and our ever-growing population forces ever more choices about sharing the earth with its other inhabitants, I’m afraid the choices that will be made won’t be the best ones. Those kids don’t know it yet but their future, and those of their own children, will hinge on making the best choices humans can make, and to do that they need to know and understand a whole lot more about how the world works. I sure wish I could do more to help that happen.


Pablo said...

Good post. You're right about everything.

Cathy said...

The future is a little scary with these kids. Some of them are just plain nasty. But some of that is coming from the parents

You only try and hope for teh best. It's not only nature skills they are lacking.

Try to come up with craft for ages 3-5 is very hard sometimes. For some kids, the library is the only place they can color a picture.

That's sad too

Scott said...

I've noticed the same things when I give programs, too, Carolyn. Most kids just can't seem to keep quiet (maybe it's biologically impossible), even if you remind them frequently that that's the only way they might see something interesting.

Then again, sometimes there's that one kid in a group who knows astonishingly more than I do about a natural history subject in which she or he is particularly interested. That child always makes me feel very hopeful.

I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, in the late 50's and early 60's. Our neighborhood was new and building out, but there were still pockets of nature accessible to a kid on a bike, and I took full advantage of them. I begged my father to take me to one of the large regional parks as often as I dared (and he usually assented to my entreaties--to his everlasting credit). I remember saying to my Dad once, "I can't wait until I can drive; then I can come out [to the park] as often as I like." My Dad replied, "Scott, you'll never come out here when you can drive!" I proved him wrong--I became a biologist and still went out to the park as frequently as I could get the time.