A new report that provides recommendations to connect Delaware's children with the outdoors will be released this evening at a kickoff event featuring national author Richard Louv, who penned "Last Child in the Woods," which has stimulated an international conversation about the relationship between children and nature.
"In its public support of connecting children to nature, Delaware is setting an example for much of the country and the world," said Louv. "New recommendations from Delaware's Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside Task Force will encourage all of us to take the next steps. All children need nature. Not only the only the ones whose parents love the natural world. All children."
The event will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at Delaware Technical Community College, Terry Campus, (100 Campus Drive, Dover, DE 19904) Education and Technology Building, Room 727 A-D Conference Center.
The report, prepared under the leadership of Governor Jack Markell by the Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside Task Force, identifies the national trends contributing to growing childhood obesity, including lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, and limited outdoor experiences, all of which adversely impacts the health of children and academic achievement. Evidence now shows that children ages eight to 18 average 6.5 hours per day with electronic media and just minutes a day engaged in unstructured outdoor activities.
"We share a desire to change the lives of children," said Governor Jack Markell. "They need outdoor activity and nature in their lives. Experiencing nature nurtures a child's growth. This collaboration provides a plan that can influence our children's long term well-being. The Task Force report provides this path forward so Delaware can become a leader in environmental education -- and its children, active stewards of our lands."
At the event, Louv will be joined by members of the Task Force representing a vast range of expertise on the issue, including DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara, and representatives from the Delaware Department of Education, Nemours Health and Prevention Services, the Delaware Nature Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Center for Inland Bays, the Department of Health and Social Services/Division of Public Health, Delaware Greenways and the Delaware Association for Environmental Education.
"This comprehensive report is an important step towards reconnecting more of Delaware's children with nature and reducing childhood obesity," said DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara. "At school, at home, in parks and backyards, we want all children to have the opportunity grow up healthy and strong, enjoy remarkable outdoor experiences, and learn about the importance of clean air, clean water, and Delaware's native plants, fisheries, and wildlife."
"We have a great opportunity to focus on environmental education throughout the state," Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. "In addition to an emphasis on environmental literacy, the [national] No Child Left Inside legislation includes healthy living programs, funding for curriculum changes and field trips to environmental areas of interest for children to learn hands-on."
The Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside Task Force was established by Senate Concurrent Resolution 20, approved by the 146th General Assembly. At the direction of Governor Markell, Secretary O'Mara and former Secretary Lillian Lowery of the Delaware Department of Education charged the Task Force to be proactive in addressing the opportunities afforded by the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the current status of "nature-deficit disorder" facing the children of Delaware.
"A coalition of more than 140 partners across the state has created this report," said Delaware First Lady Carla Markell, honorary co-chair of the initiative's Ambassador task force. "Its recommendations outline a solid path forward to ensure our children, families and communities connect with nature. The professionalism, care and passion that went into preparing this report represent a leap forward in the continuing efforts toward making Delaware a happy, healthy and environmentally-literate community."
The mission of the Task Force was to formulate a plan to create opportunity for all Delaware children to participate in outdoor experiences, to improve environmental literacy, promote healthy lifestyles, and provide better access to green space through formal and informal outdoor experiences.
The Task Force has researched and developed the report's recommendations and actions in education, access, community, health, plan implementation, marketing and policy and legislative support.
Some of the report's recommendations include: promoting meaningful outdoor and overnight experiences, establishing Greener Schools for Delaware programs, developing schoolyard natural areas to strengthen education in grades Pre-K through 12, incorporating natural spaces into the built environment, providing access for multi-generational use to increase physical activity for all ages, improving accessibility to existing areas, increasing access to recreational facilities through community partnerships, developing training to increase communities' understanding of the initiative and increase environmental literacy statewide, using nature-based activities (unstructured outdoor play, hiking in a safe area, spending time in a green space) and resources as a health strategy, and providing outreach and professional development in fields of health care and prevention services.
Richard Louv is a journalist and the author of eight books about the connections between community, family and nature. He received the 2009 Audubon Medal, which has previously been awarded to Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson and President Jimmy Carter. Louv is the chairman of the Children and Nature Network and honorary co-chair of the National Forum on Children and Nature. He has keynoted the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the first White House Summit on Environmental Education. His articles have been published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among others. He has also appeared on The Early Show, Good Morning America, Today, CBS Evening News and many other national programs. His book, "Last Child in the Woods," has been translated into 10 languages and published in 15 countries.