In Belonging, A Culture of Place, Bell Hooks writes: “Freely roaming Kentucky hills in childhood, running from snakes and all forbidden terrors both real and imaginary, I learn to be safe in the knowledge that facing what I fear and moving beyond it will keep me secure. With this knowledge I nurtured a sublime trust in the power of nature to seduce, excite, delight and solace. Nature was truly a sanctuary, a place of refuge, a place for healing wounds.”
Hooks’s early experiences in the wild places around her Kentucky home elucidate the infinite magic and wonder that can reside for children—and adults—in the natural world. More and more, however, children are growing up without access to these gifts. Technology, urbanization, racism, classism and many other factors converge to keep children out of the natural world—and even to cultivate fear and aversion to the wild outdoors. The consequences of this separation from the natural world for human beings are profound—and problematic.
Nature Based Education for Teens and Adults
In the national bestseller Last Child In The Woods, Richard Louv writes: “Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical and spiritual health directly to our association with nature—in positive ways. Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies. 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.”
Nature-based education is critical in these times. Not only for youth, but also for adults, so that the parents, aunts, uncles and role models for younger people also have authentic, embodied connections and relationships to the natural world. Weaving Earth offers nature-based programs for youth and adults that seek to address the separation between humans and the natural world that has accumulated over the past generations.
We believe this exposure to nature—through which comfort, curiosity and a deepening sense of self and belonging are accessible—is vital and something that all human beings can benefit from. Unfortunately, there are many barriers that prevent people from being able to access nature-based education. Economic disparities and differential access to resources, including within the educational system, prevent many people—particularly people of color—from being able to access programs, services and opportunities that focus on building connection to nature. Therefore, conversations about the relevance and importance of nature-based education naturally must include conversations about race, class, privilege and many other systems of oppression and marginalization that exist within our society and lead to an unequal distribution of critical opportunities through the population at large.