University of Maryland Extension

Thriving Naturally in 4-H

Introduction:Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” It refers to the psychological, physical and cognitive consequences stemming from a lack of time in nature. The disconnect between indoors and outdoors may not be at fault for every psychological and physical ill, but it definitely correlates with modern increases in attention deficit disorder, depression, obesity, and stress. The solution to Nature Deficit Disorder is simple…spend time outside in natural settings. The great news about this, is that we don’t have to be biologists or ecologists to develop nature based programs. We just have to serve as enthusiastic guides navigating the countless exploration opportunities that nature provides. Natural exploration can provide a critical spark, helping youth find a sense of belonging with others who care about the natural world while experiencing the healing powers of nature. Youth are often inspired to develop hope filled solutions for issues or concerns they see in the natural settings they explore. Thus, nature based programming can be a powerful tool for helping 4-H youth to thrive. Interactions with nature enhance positive life skill development; increasing attention span, developing positive social, gross motor, teamwork, and problem solving skills. The research is compelling. As educators we can communicate the powerful benefits of natural exploration to parents and youth in our communities as we launch 4-H programs aimed to use nature as a healer of Nature Deficit Disorder.
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