Children in Nature

Many years ago, botanist Luther Burbank said “Every child should have mudpies, grasshoppers, wildflowers, Aspen trees, blue sky, soaring birds, fuzzy squirrels, huge rocks, butterflies, pine cones, wild strawberries, and room to run in—and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.”

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We have long known that magical things happen when children and nature get together. Now there is a growing body of research that supports the importance of a strong connection with the natural world for all of us, and especially for young people. Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, includes research from many sources and this documentation all points in the same direction. “As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”

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What does contact with nature provide?

  • Nature calms children, focuses them, and yet excites their senses.
  • The natural world incites peace and curiosity at the same time.
  • Time spent in nature provides physical and emotional exercise that “is more varied and less time-bound than organized sports”.
  • Play in nature reduces stress and bolsters children’s resilience.

As Louv points out “Children are simply happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for experiences in the out-of-doors.”

Providing the opportunity for young people to connect to the natural world has been the mission of Sanborn Western Camps since its founding in 1948. Here on our 6000 acres in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, we hike, camp, rides horses, and take advantage of the teachable moments that occur daily.

A Red-tailed Hawk skims over the hay meadow searching for rodents, a deer stands camouflaged in the Aspen grove, a porcupine lumbers across the path in the early evening. Campers have the time to sit quietly and engage their senses in the appreciation of nature, or to find a “special place” to which they can return over and over again in their minds. They learn to respect the power of a thunderstorm and to begin to know the clouds in the sky and the scent on the wind which forecast that a storm is coming. They have the chance to view the world from the top of a 14,000 mountain, to wonder at the stars in the night sky, and to smell the bark of a Ponderosa tree. They are changed by these experiences.

Richard Louv wrote an article called “The Natural Gifts of Camp” which is posted on the American Camp Association website. His buddy, Peter Sebring, attended Sanborn Camps for 11 years as a camper and staff member. We cannot confirm that Pete actually saw a wolf while he was here—perhaps the wonder is that he believes he did.