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Wetland Explorer
New Years Nature
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A startling statistic came across my computer screen this week. “The average American child can recognize 1,000 corporate logos, but can’t identify 10 plants or animals native to his or her region.” While I do not know the exact accuracy of this statement, it probably is true and probably should not surprise me.
The trend away from our youth spending time in nature, or even just outside their houses, has been well documented and, unfortunately, is all too applicable in most of our own families. Screen time, social media, and electronic devices have replaced outside time, exploration, and nature’s playground.
The fact is, for various reasons, today’s youth are not given many of the same outdoor opportunities that were ways of life for previous generations. Professionals have cleverly coined this trend “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Believe it or not, Nature Deficit Disorder can potentially have serious consequences on our young people. Research has shown direct relationships between the lack of nature experiences and common, serious ailments that afflict today’s youth, such as obesity, attention-deficit disorder/hyperactivity, and depression.
However, possibly even a more frightening consequence of our youth not engaging in their own local outdoor environments is the indifference that can result. For most people, they only care for (and put value on) that which they know and understand. The more unknown something is, the less people respect it, care for it, and protect it. Suddenly the mysterious, hundreds of plants and animals our youth can’t identify have little or no value to them.
Reversing Nature Deficit Disorder must become a lifestyle. It is pretty easy to see that when given the opportunity, kids do enjoy spending time in nature. However, experiencing nature takes time. Our immediate gratification tendencies often do not allow us to really take advantage of what nature has to offer. The only way to see the wonders, beauties, and actions of nature is to spend time with it. The chances of seeing or learning something life-altering about nature by going out in it for one particular event a year is pretty unlikely, and unfortunately, that is often where nature experiences stop for our youth. The real challenge is to take advantage of every opportunity to spend time in nature.
Why not start off 2017 with the first, of hopefully many more, nature experiences for your family this year? America’s State Parks has promoted First Day Hikes for the last several years, encouraging families to start their year off with a hike at a nearby state park. Hikes can be as big or simple as you are comfortable with. Several Kansas State Parks have sponsored events associated with First Day Hikes. For more information visit
Even if you are not able to participate in one of these organized First Day Hikes, I challenge you to get outside on Jan. 1, for your own First Day Hike. Take a trip to Cheyenne Bottoms, walk the KWEC Nature Trail (it is open even if the KWEC is not), walk around Veteran’s Park, or even spend some time exploring your own backyard. But, remember, like most New Year’s resolutions, it can’t stop on Jan. 2. Pledge to spend more days in nature in 2017 than ever before. It will be worth it.