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The Nature Deficit


How did you spend your free time in childhood? I remember how I did. I spent loads of time climbing trees. And investigating what was living in mud puddles. I went fly fishing with my friends, raced bikes across dirt lots with my siblings and went on what-felt-like epic hikes through Maryland’s forests and meadows. I was outside all the time. I just had to be home for dinner.

But if you watch kids today, you’ll know that most of our children are growing up in a polar opposite way. In fact, a Kaiser Foundation study conducted in 2010 found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 spent an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes with digital media each day. When the study took into account the use of more than one digital device at a time – say a smart phone, TV and a videogame – kids spent more than 10 and a half hours a day with digital technologies.
That’s an astounding amount of non-outdoor time. And lots of researchers have taken notice. One of them is author and journalist Richard Louv. His 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder.

W. Brooks Paternotte took the helm of Irvine Nature Center as executive director in July 2013 and immediately began building on the strong 35-year foundation. Brooks is a Baltimore native who was a teacher, coach, advisor, dean and Head of the Middle School during his 13 years at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore. He is also an instructor and ambassador of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and is a Leave No Trace Master, as well as an avid outdoorsman and a features writer for FlyLife Magazine.