Thanks to a very generous donation we are excited to expand and improve our high ropes course for the 2017 season. Jason Lindsey, owner of Monkeypod Designs, will be leading the construction and design of the new ropes course elements. Jason has been designing and building ropes courses, climbing walls, zip line tours, and tree houses for many years and is an expert at designing structures in trees. Along with camp parent and Certified Arborist Fritz Neubauer, owner of the Neubauer Land Management Company and Suger Pine Farms, Jason and camp director David Faulstich spent time earlier this month selecting trees and laying out the new course. Construction is set to be completed by April 1st.
by Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic, Published June 30, 2013
Author Richard Louv explains how society can overcome nature-deficit disorder.
A young girl gazes at the desert landscape.
"I've been arguing for a while that connection to nature should be thought of as a human right," Richard Louv told the crowd assembled in the courtyard of National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Louv was there to inspire the staff about the benefits of spending time outdoors.
Louv, the author of the bestsellers Last Child in the Woods (2005) and The Nature Principle (2011), coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" to describe the loss of connection children increasingly feel with the natural world. Nature-deficit disorder is not a clinically recognized condition, he explains, but rather a term to evoke a loss of communion with other living things. Nevertheless, he argues, nature-deficit disorder affects "health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including [people's] ability to feel ultimately alive." (See "The Nature-Deficit Disorder and How It Is Impacting Our Natural World.")
The causes of the disorder include loss of open space, increasingly busy schedules, an emphasis on team sports over individualized play and exploration, competition from electronic media, and what Louv and others call a "culture of fear," in which people are afraid to visit natural areas or even go outside due to heavy media coverage of violent events.
To dive deeper into Louv's ideas, National Geographic sat down with him for a few questions.
It has been a few years since you published Last Child in the Woods. What has changed since then?
Quite a bit. I wrote another book, called The Nature Principle, extending the idea [of nature-deficit disorder] to adults. That's because I kept hearing from adults, who said, "It affects us too." At the time there were a lot of great people doing great work around nature, but in the media that issue was nowhere near the stove, let alone the front burner.
I didn't know it would have the impact it has. I never claim Last Child in the Woods started anything, but it proved to be a very useful tool, and things took off. Today, if you look at childrenandnature.org [the website of the Children & Nature Network, a group Louv founded], you'll see all kinds of good news from all over the country, and it's increasingly international. Nature preschools are beginning to take off. There are 112 regional, provincial, or state campaigns in the U.S. and Canada that are working on getting kids outdoors, many of which didn't exist before.
It doesn't seem to matter what someone's politics or religion is, they want to tell me about the treehouse they had as a kid, if they are old enough—for the younger people that is less likely to be true. This is the only issue I've seen that brings people together, because nobody wants to be in the last generation where it's considered normal for kids to go outdoors.
This week you spoke at an event with Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, at the Center for American Progress in Washington, on the importance of getting children and adults outside. How did that go?
Sally Jewell is a former head of REI, and she is one of the people who stepped forward when Last Child came out. She took an REI daypack filled with copies of the book, went to the White House, and handed them out to staff and the President.
She will be the third Secretary of the Interior in a row to be fully committed to this issue. The first was Dirk Kempthorne, a conservative Republican under President [George W.] Bush, who was very committed to this. So was Ken Salazar [under Obama], and now Sally, who probably has the most experience with this issue. [Tuesday's] event illustrates that this issue is growing.
Can you share some specific examples of how a connection to nature improved someone's life?
Juan Martinez is one example. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where he was headed for gangs and trouble. A principal told him he'd have to go to detention or join the eco club. He thought the club sounded like a bunch of nerds, but he joined. He resented it at first, but then had an assignment to grow something.
He had seen his mother break up concrete behind their house to grow chilis to eat. So he grew a jalapeno chili plant and took it home to show her that he could nurture life too. That plant, and later an eco club trip to the Grand Tetons, changed his life. He is now an environmentalist and head of the Natural Leaders Network, which is part of the Children & Nature Network. He is also a National Geographic explorer and has spoken at the White House twice.
So nature can transform your life. He found not only nature, he found people through nature. He reconnected to South Central in a new way. (See video of Juan Martinez.)
How can city dwellers connect with nature?
As of 2008 more people lived in cities than the countryside. That marked a huge moment in human history, and it means one of two things: Either the human connection to nature will continue to fade, or it means the beginning of a new kind of city.
One way is through "biophilic design" [nature-inspired design], which is the incorporation of nature where we live, work, learn, and play, not only as something we drive an hour to visit. Not only parks, but also in the way we design our neighborhoods, our backyards, and our buildings.
I believe cities can become engines of biodiversity. It starts with planting a lot of native plants, which revive the food chain and bring back butterfly and bird migration routes.
The word "sustainability" is problematic, because to most people it means stasis, survival, and energy efficiency. We have to do those things, but that only goes so far in igniting the imagination. Increasingly, I talk about a "nature-rich society," a different way to look at the future that is not just about survival, but about something much better.
How do we get to a greener future?
I visited the Martin Luther King memorial yesterday. King demonstrated and said that any movement will fail if it can't paint a picture of a world people will want to go to. That world has to be more than energy efficient, it must be a better civilization.
I think we're in a cultural depression. The number one young adult literature genre today is something called dystopic fiction, which portrays a post-apocalyptic world in which vampires aren't even having a good time. I have a theory that most Americans carry images of the far future that look a lot like Blade Runner and Mad Max. If those are the dominating images, and we don't have a balancing set of images of a great future, then we better be careful what we imagine.
You have written about the impacts of "nature time" on problems like anxiety, depression, ADD, and obesity. How important is that?
If you look at a new body of research on depression, ADD, physical health, child obesity, and the epidemic of inactivity, nature is a good antidote to all of that. I didn't coin it, but I like the phrase "sitting is the new smoking," because new evidence shows that sitting long hours every day can have serious health risks similar to those caused by smoking.
Researchers at the University of Illinois are investigating whether time in the woods could be used to supplement treatment of ADD. A study at the University of Kansas found that young people who backpacked for three days showed higher creativity and cognitive abilities. People in hospitals who can see a natural landscape have been shown to get better faster.
As an antidote, we need to figure out ways to increase nature time even as technology increases. It has to be a conscious decision. * Speaking of technology, how much are "screens" like TV, the Internet, video games, and smartphones to blame for keeping kids indoors?*
I always resist demonizing technology and video games, specifically, partly because when people write about this issue they go immediately to that. But then they ignore these other things, like "stranger danger" [Louv has argued that sensationalist media has made parents fearful of letting children go outside] and bad urban design, the fact that our education system needs a lot of work, the fact that we are canceling recess and field trips—there are a lot of other reasons out there.
Having said that, there's no doubt that electronics have something to do with this. The Kaiser Foundation found that kids spend 53 hours a week plugged in to some kind of electronic medium, and I imagine that's true of adults too. I have an iPhone and iPad, I spend a lot of time with screens, but I think the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need as a balancing agent.
How can parents know if their kids might suffer from nature-deficit disorder? Are there warning signs?
I don't think this is something that can be reduced to individual symptoms in individual children. I've always felt it was a more generalized issue, a disorder of society that has implications for all of us.
By Michael Unger, Ph.D.
Posted in Psychology Today.
I recently spoke to 300 camp directors about how to make children more resilient to life. Summer camps, we discovered, are perfect places to help children optimize their psychosocial development.
After all, summer camps are places where children get the experiences they need to bolster their range of coping strategies. There are the simple challenges of learning how to build a fire, going on a hike, or conquering a high ropes course. There are the much more complex challenges of getting along with a new group of peers, learning how to ask for help from others, or taking manageable amount of risks without a parent following after you.
The best camping experiences offer these opportunities for manageable amounts of risk and responsibility, what I term "the risk takers advantage.” The worst camps pander to children as if they are entitled little creatures whose parents are paying big sums of money. Children at camp can't be treated like customers if they are going to get anything out of the experience. They need to be treated like students whose caregivers, the counselors, know what the kids need to grow.
Camps that pull this off and make kids, especially teens, put away the makeup, stash the iPods, get a little dirty and even a little frustrated while having fun and making new friends, are the kinds of camps that offer children the best of what they need. Looking at those experiences from the vantage point of my research on resilience. I know that camps help our children develop great coping strategies when they provide seven things all children need:
1) New relationships, not just with peers, but with trusted adults other than their parents. Just think about how useful a skill like that is: being able to negotiate on your own with an adult for what you need. 2) A powerful identity that makes the child feel confident in front of others. Your child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when he sings, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help your child find something to be proud of that he can do well.
3) Camps help children feel in control of their lives, and those experiences of self-efficacy can travel home as easily as a special art project or the pine cone they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten.
4) Camps make sure that all children are treated fairly. The wonderful thing about camps is that every child starts without the baggage they carry from school. They may be a geek or the child with dyslexia. At camp they will both find opportunities to just be kids who are valued for who they are. No camps tolerate bullying (and if they do, you should withdraw your child immediately).
5) At camp kids get what they need to develop physically. Ideally, fresh air, exercise, a balance between routine and unstructured time, and all the good food their bodies need. It is not that s’mores (marshmallows, chocolate and Graham cracker treats) don't have a place at the campfire, but a good camp is also about helping children find healthy lifestyles.
6) Perhaps best of all, camps offer kids a chance to feel like they belong. All those goofy chants and team songs, the sense of common purpose and attachment to the identity that camps promote go a long way to offering children a sense of being rooted.
7) And finally, camps can offer children a better sense of their culture. It might be skit night, or a special camp program that reflects the values of the community that sponsors the camp, or maybe it's just a chance for children to understand themselves a bit more as they learn about others. Camps give kids both cultural roots and the chance to understand others who have cultures very different than their own.
That's an impressive list of factors that good camping experiences provide our children. Whether it is a subsidized day camp in a city or a luxurious residential facility up in the mountains, camps can give our kids a spicy combination of experiences that prepare them well for life. Add to that experience the chance for a child's parents to reinforce at home what the child nurtures at camp, and maybe, just maybe, we'll find in our communities and schools amazing kids who show the resilience to make good decisions throughout their lives.
Chincapin is excited to welcome our newest four legged family member, Angelo! Angelo is an 8 year old, 16.1 hand Zweibrucker Warmblood gelding who came to us all the way from Castle Rock, Colorado! He is a talented three day eventing horse, and he is ready to teach our riders all about dressage, stadium, and cross country jumping.
Even more, Angelo was generously donated to the camp by Beth Jauquet, a former Chincapin rider who is a now a successful equestrian professional. We are so excited for this lovely boy to join our string. He can't wait for spring lessons to begin so he can meet all of our awesome riding students!
Here is the story of how Angelo came to us written by Beth herself:
"It all started with a pony ride in Disney World when I was 2 years old. That is, a lifelong passion for anything horse related. My Dad would later call that pony ride, “the biggest mistake of his life.” From that moment forward, I was obsessed. Every family vacation HAD to include riding horses; I HAD to go pet the horses after preschool; even long drives to visit a family friend’s horses became a regular request.
My Dad had a colleague that was affiliated with Chincapin riding stables and Red Oak Camp. Finally, after 4 years of pestering, my parents agreed to sign my sister and me up for riding lessons. After just one session, we were hooked! I continued to ride at Chincapin until I graduated high school in 1998.
After high school, I moved to Colorado to attend college at Colorado State University. During that time, I explored many different equestrian disciplines. However, it was the foundation that I received while riding at Chincapin that made me the horsewoman that I am today. Chincapin was not only a great environment for students, but it was also the best home a horse could ask for. This is why, when it came time to make a difficult decision about the future of my own horse, Chincapin aka “pony paradise”, was the first place that came to mind.
In July 2014, I purchased a 6-year-old imported German gelding from Pennsylvania named Angelo. Soon after moving to Colorado, it was clear that something about the climate or environment did not agree with him. After a year and a half of trying almost every treatment imaginable, I realized that Angelo needed to move back to a climate where he’d be happy and healthy. Although it was a very difficult decision, I was reassured knowing that Angelo would be happy. And, that he would be able to help teach the Chincapin students the wonderful lessons that I learned almost 20 years ago.
Currently, my dad is stuggling with Alzheimer’s disease and some days I’m not sure that he even recognizes me. However, when I told him that I was donating Angelo to Chincapin he perked up and had a moment of clarity. He smiled as we reminisced about Saturday morning lessons; trail rides in the Holden Arboretum; riding director at the time, Marty Toneff; and the rest of the wonderful staff. Obviously, Chincapin left a lasting impression on him, as well. In a very strange way, I feel that my donation of Angelo to Chincapin is a thank you to my Dad and Mom for all the sacrifices they made that enabled me to pursue my passion.
In closing, I’d like to take a moment to thank Laura Stockhaus, the Chincapin Riding Director, for making this possible. I can’t wait to watch Angelo grow and develop in your program."
Sincerely, Beth Jauquet
Dear Red Oak, Red Barn and Chincapin Camp Family,
Happy New Year! I trust you all have had a wonderful holiday season full of meaningful time with family and friends.
With the turning of the calendar comes an important period of reflection. How has the year gone? What changes might we want to make in the coming months in order to live better, healthier, and more productively? I am happy to report that the leadership team and board of trustees at camp have been engaged in this same process.
I am writing to you for three key reasons: I want to let you know of some exciting and transformational developments at Chincapin, about some innovative program work in which we have engaged, and to ask for your valuable input to help shape our programs.
First, as you may recall, Chincapin Camp needs to relocate after this summer camp season. What an opportunity to dream big and imagine new and innovative ways to revisit our mission and lay out a framework for the future! The board and I are happy to report that, through the support of key donors, we are in the process of designing a state of the art, sustainable eco-barn and education facility to be built at a new site closer to Red Oak Camp. Stay tuned for more on this exciting project!
Second, we feel it is also an important time to turn an evaluative eye on current programming: Are we delivering on our mission? What could be done better? How can we positively impact more youth? To help answer these questions, we have secured the services of Brian Hart, a Cleveland-based educational consultant who specializes in immersive, hands-on, experiential programming. Brian is working alongside our leadership team to create new and exciting opportunities for campers both young and old to build inner strength through outdoor experience, education, and exploration. Look for signs of this important work soon, especially in regards to our Junior Counselor Leadership Program (JCLP) and the launching of a Leadership and Sustainability Center.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we need your feedback. We will be launching an online survey and phone call initiative in the coming weeks to gather feedback from existing camp families. Please take the time to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas so that we can continue to make the Red Oak, Red Barn and Chincapin experience a life-changing one for the campers we serve.
As you can see, the camp team is busy for all the right reasons. These are exciting and important times for our camps and our camp family. Our leadership team has come to rely on the metaphor of a tree: We, as a camp family, are in the process of both deepening our foundational roots and growing up and out towards a bright future. Thank you so much for your continued support and input at this transformational time for us all.
C.J. White Chairman, Board of Trustees, Red Oak Camp