This week I attended the Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association Annual Conference at Highlands Camp and Retreat near Allenspark, Colorado.
One of the workshops that I attended was led by Elise Bates Russell , Assistant Director of Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake. Titled “10 Things Your Campers Can Do Today to Impact the Earth,” Elise started with the most important item to instill an environmental ethic in children: “Appreciate God’s creation.”
It is shocking how many children do not experience creation in its natural form, and don't learn this appreciation of nature. Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder suggests that less time in nature is tied to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, stress, depression and anxiety disorders, and childhood obesity.
Other studies have shown surprising statistics that point to children having a hard time relating to nature:
- A University of Maryland study found that between 1997 and 2003, the proportion of children ages 9 to 12 who spent time hiking, walking, fishing, playing on the beach or gardening declined 50 percent.
- Another study in 2002study found that 8-year-olds could identify 25 percent more Pokémon characters than species of wildlife.
But, giving out these startling statistics was not what I meant to do in this blog post. Though I work for Environmental Ministries, the time that I find myself in nature is shrinking. So many conferences take me to an airport, a hotel, and home again. But, this week I found myself in nature and it was so refreshing. On Monday afternoon I took a walk around the Highlands nature trail with other folks from the conference, including four children. Being in nature was refreshing and invigorating by itself, but seeing children experience nature was an even bigger inspiration. Seeing kids excited about tracks in the snow, trees twisted from the high Colorado winds, and throwing snow balls was the best reminder for me about why protecting God’s creation is an important task.
For your next church gathering, consider holding it outside or at a camp and conference center near you. You might have one of these refreshing natural experiences and create a space for kids to get to know part of creation that they aren’t familiar with. Cultivating this appreciation of God's creation in children will help them learn to care for creation and help remind us adults of why this mission of earth care is important. You can find Presbyterian Camp and Conference Centers and book your retreat at bookaretreat.com.