The disconnection of today’s children from the natural world is a growing concern among parents, educators and mental and physical health professionals throughout the country. “Nature Deficit Disorder” is a condition identified by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods and has been linked to troubling current childhood trends such as the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression.
To help address these concerns, the Gateway Children’s Nature Connection, a coalition of St. Louis-area organizations that share a mission of helping parents reconnect children with nature, is sponsoring the “No Child Left Inside Conference” on Saturday, March 31, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the J.C. Penny Conference Center on the campus of the University of Missouri, St. Louis (UMSL).
The theme of the conference is “Growing Up Denatured: It’s Time for Kids to Go Back Outside.” It is open to professional educators, youth leaders and parents of young children interested in providing outdoor experiences that reconnect children with nature. The conference will explore benefits children derive from spending time in nature and the outdoors, including reduced stress, an increase in curiosity, creativity and problem-solving abilities, and improved physical and emotional health. Participants will discover the latest research on the issue, learn ways to address and prevent the effects of Nature Deficit Disorder, and take home ideas and activities to excite and motivate children to get outdoors.
Keynote speaker will be Sherri Griffith, a professor of Early Childhood Education at Central Methodist University. There will also be a special presentation by environmental musician and educator Curt Carter of the Land For Learning Institute.
An optional post-conference field trip will be offered the following day, Sunday, April 1, from noon to 4 p.m. Participants will visit selected sites for demonstrations on practical application of material covered in the Saturday conference.
The registration fee for the conference is $39, which includes a box lunch. The fee for the optional post-conference field trip is $20.
For more information or to register, contact UMSL Senior Coordinator of Continuing Education Jim Jordan at 314-516-7250. A detailed schedule of activities and online registration can be found at http://www.umslce.org/index.php/catalog/ by searching “no child.”
Charter members of the Gateway Children’s Nature Connection sponsoring the conference include: Missouri Department of Conservation, Doris L. Schnuck Children’s Garden, Shaw Nature Reserve, Litzsinger Road Ecology Center, Saint Louis Zoo, Raintree Learning Community, Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks, Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial Park and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville School of Education.