Nature Deficit Disorder

Nature Deficit Disorder or NDD is apparently something.  Wikipedia says so right here.  I mean, it’s not a real something as far as medical professionals see things, but an author made it up in 2005, so it’s that sort of something.

He’s probably right though.  Technology has narrowed many people’s focus down to this television show, that video games, or the millions of other time consuming activities on the internet.  This has resulted in children spending progressively less time outdoors.  It’s a shame.  I love the outdoors, and I feel like I have a nature deficit when I’ve logged far too many hours on the computer.  A big part of the hours people put in on technology is the ability to connect with people and form relationships.  We are relational in nature and the ease and scope of the relationships we can form on the internet is amazing.  But without sounding too new age-y, kids need to understand their relationship with nature.

Education has the task of balancing new technologies with the great outdoors for students, and I think for the most part, it’s done well.  More First Nations teachings regarding the interconnected roles of humans and the environment are taught.  Outdoor education is a growing discipline in schools.

Do you think NDD is valid or bunk?  Are schools doing enough to balance nature and technology and the possible effects of NDD? Are you suffering and you don’t even realize it!?!?!

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7 comments
  1. Judy Arzt said:

    I see the point about technology keeping us away from the great outdoors, but I can’t see the point of coming up with another disorder. If so, what are the symptoms and how is the disorder to be treated. I think this is another case of a fabricated disorder, although we probably do need to emphasize the importance of getting outside and enjoying the world around us. That is not to say, nature and technology are exclusive of one another. Many technology users could also well be nature lovers. Like anything else, there is a degree of balance in our lives. Yes, we might discuss “technology sabbaticals” with students, but because they are off the technology, that does not mean they are out enjoying nature. By the way, your blog looks professional, and it is clear that the blog is a way for you to submit your work to your professor as well as to share your work more globally. Is everyone else in your class using WordPress, or do students have a choice of the technology they choose to display their coursework? If you have a moment, drop me a line at my gmail account.

    • bevenson said:

      Thanks for the comment Judy! Maintaining a blog and developing a professional online portfolio are required for the class. Students are giving choice as to where and how they display the work, though WordPress was recommended as it’s easy to navigate for beginners like myself!

      • Judy Arzt said:

        Thanks for your reply. I am continuing to read the posts. I am not sure it is technology that is keeping people away from nature. Many people live in congested places, and that more than technology might be the issue. Also, some people are so programmed with work or school, do they leave themselves time to get outside? Even though I am on the computer a lot, I make it a point to run a couple miles or more a day so I get outside and enjoy the wonderful outdoors. I happen to live in a wooded, hilly area, with waterfalls, beautiful scenery, and so forth. But even it I did not, I would still try to find the balance between nature and technology. One does not supplant the other. Are younger people today enjoying the great outdoors? I am not sure we can generalize. Some probably do. I grew up on an island with the beach and ocean, and know the people growing up there today still enjoy the beauty of the sea. Technology is not keeping them off the beach, and they do get off their Kindles and surf, fish, and enjoy the ocean.

        On another note, what other tools are students in your class using to display their coursework? Do you think you will continue to use WordPress or any blogging tool or e-portfolio tool after this course is over.?

  2. Charlene Daub said:

    There needs to be something to explain the drastic changes that we see in our youth over the years. I am 49 have an 18 an 21 year old and have taught for 28 years.
    I read the Wikipedia article and it certainly makes sense. I have thought of the increase of video games and tv were issues but never the thought of being outside less as part of the issue.
    Outside, experiencing nature, making up our own adventure games, getting exercise, breathing in fresh air, taking in vitamin D, being faced with decision making and problem solving situations are certainly some things that our youth are missing.
    I don’t think it is the school’s job to try to balance this. I think parents need to take more responsibility in getting their kids off the video games and outside.
    I write a short story in grade 2 (which my mom kept) about having a no TV week at home that was so successful, the family threw out their TV. We didn’t throw out the TV but we did go out and play more.
    I wish my students had the creativity to invent games like we did in the olden days! Can’t believe I said that, but I do believe it.
    Good luck with yur study of NDD

  3. I think that plenty of childhood time in the outdoors may have been responsible for scientific fascination in earlier generations. I recall spending most of my weekend and summer hours under strict orders to stay out of the house. Like Charlene, I spent that time making up games and solving problems with neighborhood friends, or wandering alone through woods and fields observing how nature worked.

    Few young students have “the opportunity for exploration and fascination in small untended wildernesses” (from the Wikipedia article linked above), and I wonder if that’s why fewer of them have any interest in the sciences. This lack has had its effect long before they get to school, so I don’t believe Outdoor Ed will have any more effect than Physical Ed does, if it isn’t reinforced at home.

  4. Sarah said:

    I took a class at u of r entitled hope. One of the suggested readings was “last child in the woods.” I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my list of books to read!

  5. L. said:

    Definitely read “Last Child In The Woods” by Richard Louv. Even going on his website and checking out his other work is good, too. I think there are some youtube videos of him speaking as well. I really like what he says about the healing effect nature has on humans and how that is often overlooked. Someone once said “dirt is natural Ritalin”. So true – kids can spend hours on a task outside, playing in the dirt, without any distractions and with a very long attention span.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love that technology has changed so drastically in terms of networking and has thus opened many new ways of learning and educating, etc. However, you’re right about the hours spent in front of a screen rather than being outside. It’s all a question of balance – losing touch with nature is one of the biggest problems today and will become worse if nothing is done about it. In my opinion, even though outdoor education is slowly increasing in schools, there is still a lack of it all over the country.

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