UCSB Arts & Lectures brought Richard Louv to Santa Barbara in May of 2012. Here, he addresses a packed house at the Granada Theater. UCSB Arts & Lectures brought Richard Louv to Santa Barbara in May of 2012. Here, he addresses a packed house at the Granada Theater.

By Carly Kray

Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin Books, 2008).  His research suggests that spending less time outdoors results in behavioral and developmental problems, particularly for children.  Louv explains that Nature Deficit Disorder arises out of parental fears, reduced access to natural areas, and an increase in screen time.

Louv believes that because of fears catalyzed by the media, parents would rather keep children indoors than let them explore outdoors.  When children stay indoors, they are more likely to spend their time in front of video games, computer screens, and television, rather than engaging in unstructured and/or social play.  He also believes that limited access to natural environments in neighborhoods is detrimental to a child’s relationship with nature.

The effects of nature deficit disorder might be best understood as an absence of benefits. Time in nature tends to reduce anxiety, mitigate attention disorders, relieve depression, and increase one’s affinity for an active life, which reduces the likelihood of obesity and other ailments associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Louv and Orfalea Foundation Chairperson Natalie Orfalea field questions from the audience. Louv and Orfalea Foundation Chairperson Natalie Orfalea field questions from the audience.

In addition, Louv notes that schools with outdoor programs tend to post significant student gains in attention and grades. Last Child in the Woods, and Louv’s follow-up, The Nature Principle (Algonquin Books, 2011), make a strong case that more time in nature can help a child to become more inquisitive, thoughtful, inventive, and self-reliant. Other research demonstrates a relationship between time in nature and increased creativity. The call to action is clear: we need to get our kids outside, and we could use more time in nature ourselves.

Louv and Outdoor Classroom Project Director Eric Nelson meet with early childhood educators to share best practices. Louv and Outdoor Classroom Project Director Eric Nelson meet with early childhood educators to share best practices.

For more information on Louv’s work, take a look at his website, or click the following link to learn about the Orfalea Foundation’s initiative to support the Outdoor Classroom Project.

Law student Carly Kray served as an intern at the Orfalea Foundation.

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About Early Childhood Education

Since the year 2000, the Orfalea Foundation has been committed to improving the life outcomes for young children through high quality early education. In Santa Barbara County, there are more than 170 early education centers in which thousands of young children spend 6-12 hours a day. These centers hold a key to the healthy development of our children. READ MORE

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