Use the outdoors for excellent learning experiences

Youth need to explore the outdoors for sustained and engaged learning that electronics cannot supply.

Youth are not learning or engaged in creative problem solving, explained Bob Ditter, M.ED., LCSW, at the 2012 National Camping Institute (NCI) this past March. Bob Ditter is a well-regarded child, adolescent, and family therapist from Boston. He has worked with children’s summer camps since 1982 and offers new training DVD’s for staff who work with campers.

According to Ditter, youth look at screens all day long when they get up, go to school, are in the car, as they text, watch TV, etc. Youth are being deprived of spontaneous and creative play. When riding in a car, they do not take the time to look out the window and see what is going on in the real world.

Play is healing – youth need to experience nature, not just for hiking, but actually taking the time to really look at what is out there. Using photography to show the picture is one example. Learning how to use a camera, what to focus on, how to take the picture and then what to do with pictures taken, whether it be scrapbooking or taking time to frame the pictures, extends this learning experience.

In the craft area, there are many ideas that can be used for kids to make some type of nature craft. The many environmental experiences/games that incorporate play whether it is in groups of teams or individually, using the outdoors as your classroom, gets the youth outside. At summer camps, the opportunity for youth to use the “out-of-doors” as the classroom is tremendous.

Ditter states that by one year old, youth have watched 2.2 hours of TV a day, by age 10, they have had four to eight hours of some screen time. Those ages 11–17 years old, 82 percent of this age has a cell phone. Cell phones are not just cell phones; they are a mini computer as kids use them mostly for texting.

When planning your summer camps, look for sessions that get the kids using their senses, getting them outside and being physically active. Visit the Michigan 4-H website for ways to get children involved in learning and play in the outdoors.

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