Here's a link to a recent PBS radio podcast I did on this topic as well as an article from CBS news. Here's the basic story. A few years ago, before MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Halo, and Twitter national studies found that typical 8 - 13 year old kids in the U.S. were spending over 40 hours per week looking at a screen (excluding homework time). Chances are good those hours have only increased since. Meanwhile, researchers find solid links between excessive media use and obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). On a more positive note, these researchers also find that when children explore, learn and play in nature, these conditions and disorders subside. It's really simple. Getting kids out in nature helps revive the spirit, engage our bodies, expose us to the curriculum of natural systems, and increase the relevance of education. For additional resources I highly recommend you check out the Children and Nature Network.
This idea of the pedagogy of place fascinates me. It's a simple premise with profound implications. Our world view impacts our world, and our world impacts our world view. As an educator, it reminds me that the relationships between people and places should be a key focus. As Lewis Mumford wrote back in 1938, "Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind." I would agree and add that mind also take form in nature, and in turn, nature's forms shape the mind.
Nature's Forms Inspire a Building
I was a key participant in the funding, design and establishment of our Environmental Technology Center --- a "building that teaches." This building teaches about synergy, science and sustainability. In addition to serving as a model green classroom, the ETC offers a variety of educational and professional training programs. Web site of the Environmental Technology Center
More Resources on the Pedagogy of Place
For more information in the ETC design process and the idea of pedagogy of place in higher education, here are a couple of resources.
"The Pedagogy of Place: What Do Our Campuses Teach?" is a 30-minute quicktime movie of a presentation that I gave on campus sustainability at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada in Fall 2002.
Bringing this idea down to my own campus, I've also written a chapter in a book entitled "Higher Education and the Challenge of Sustainability" that describes this idea and applies it in the context of institutions of higher education.