Preventing "Nature Deficit Disorder", One Outdoor Experience at a Time

In the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day routines, it's easy to overlook things not planned while attempting to check off those important items on our to-do list. But what is it that we may be missing? What void lies in waiting, languishing in the background of things that need to be done each day,  hoping for a reprieve from the over-stimulated environment of the latest electronics and gadgets that keep us preoccupied within the four walls of home, work and school?

The last 200 or so years of human evolution has brought about many great leaps and bounds in our knowledge and capacity to operate more efficiently. However, it has also brought the majority of us out of direct daily contact with the natural world. And this phenomenon has far-reaching effects on our brains which have been hard-wired for thousands of years to be a part of, rather than apart from, nature.

In his acclaimed novel "Last Child in the Woods", Richard Louv laid claim to the term "nature deficit disorder". In this indoor-centered culture, children are spending less than 4 minutes each day outside while devoting nearly 6 hours each day to screen time (computer, television, etc.), according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "No Child Left Inside" initiative. While not a condition in a medical sense, "nature deficit disorder" was coined as a descriptive measure taking into account the detriment of isolating children from nature. Issues associated with this include attention problems, anxiety, depression and obesity as well as lowered cognitive functioning.

What can you do for your family?

Bringing nature to the forefront rather than the background in which we conduct our lives remains of critical importance in today's world. Decreasing the gap in awareness of this issue is necessary for raising up healthy families and communities for generations to come. It may seem daunting to squeeze in any time of what might be left in the day to outdoor play. But luckily, right here in Polk County, our Environmental Education Department (EE) is dedicated to getting your family active in the outdoors.

Environmental education in a child's life promotes many benefits. Encouraging children to actively engage in outdoor play sparks the imagination by encouraging the participant to view the interconnectedness of the world around them in regards to the natural environment. This hands-on approach to learning is not available in the structured confines of a traditional classroom. Instilling a love of living things rather than a fear (biophilia vs. biophobia) by exposing children to the wonders of nature cultivates an appreciation for the natural world around them. Curiosity of nature fosters a yearning to think critically as well as honing basic skills that lend well to all areas of life. Environmental education becomes an important asset in today's buzzing electronic and plastic world.

 What are you waiting for?! Get outside!

The Environmental Education Department here at Polk County Conservation has many opportunities to get you plugged into a variety activities whether you're 2 or 102!

Survivor Day Camp

Jester Park Equestrian Center

    Mar 17, 2015 @ 9:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Campers will have fun learning and staying active. Activities will include archery, fishing skills, geocaching, and survival skills. Students will make their own lunch over a fire they help build. Activities will take place both indoors and out.

Pre-registration required; deadline is March 10. Ages 10-12 years. Fee: $30. To register, click here.

Spring Break Horse Camp

Jester Park Equestrian Center

Monday, March 16 @ 9:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, March 19 @ 9:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Friday, March 20 @ 9:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Spring break is here! Are your kids going stir crazy in the house? Bring them out for some horsey fun over the spring break holiday. Camps will include safety training, horsemanship skills, a riding lesson, a wagon ride, and a nature hike.

Camps are by reservation and are $60/session. To register, call (515) 999-2818.

Registration for the following summer camps opens Saturday, February 28.  

These day camps are designed to encourage hands-on learning through outdoor explorations, activities, games, crafts, and more. Camps will be led by naturalists. 

 Discovery Camp
July 6-9
9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Ages: 6-7 years

This camp is all about animals! Learn about the basic animal groups: insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. There will be plenty of games, live animals, snacks, and more! 

Pre-registration required; Fee: $60. Registration deadline is June 29. Limited to 12 campers. Meeting location: Jester Park, Shelter #5

Water Wonders Camp
June 8-11
9:00 a.m.– 3:30 p.m.
Ages: 8-9 years

Come and get your feet wet as we discover all we can about water. We’ll compare ponds, rivers, lakes, and wetlands plus the animals that live in them. Daily field trips will take us to various Polk County parks. 

Pre-registration required; Fee: $120. Registration deadline is May 25. Limited to 12 campers. Meeting location: Jester Park, Shelter by Lodge

Junior Naturalist Camp
June 15-18 and June 22-25
9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Ages: 10-11 years

Do you know a child who loves the outdoors? Campers will spend the week fishing, canoeing, hiking, geocaching and more while exploring the outdoors. Campers will also learn how to use a compass, build a fire, and cook a snack over a fire. On the last day of camp, campers will become official Iowa Junior Naturalists and receive a badge and certificate. Daily field trips will take us to various Polk County parks. 

Pre-registration required; Fee: $120. Registration deadline is June 1. Limited to 12 campers. Meeting location: Jester Park, Shelter by Lodge

Keep Polk County Conservation's Summer Skills series on your radar as well (beginning in June)!
Summer is about having fun and playing outside. Join our naturalists as they introduce your child to some fun outdoor activities which can be enjoyed the rest of their lives. Geared for youth 10-16 years old. Come to one or sign-up for an entire series.
All equipment will be provided. Pre-registration required. Fee: $10.

Be sure to check out our calendar of events for upcoming events and programs for adults.

From weekend backpack and kayak trips to wildflower hikes, from beekeeping and edible gardening basics to volunteer events, we have it all for every interest and ability level!


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