When I was in the Cub Scout division in the ’90s I had to read a lot of research about the developmental needs of boys and girls as part of my job. From 2009-2012 I was able to facilitate conferences at Philmont with Dr. Dave Rich on the important connection of children to nature and creative play.
I still keep an eye on the topics, and every once and a while some research really catches my attention.
While I have always loved Scouting’s outdoor program, have understood that it was a major part of the attraction of Scouting, and thought that our outdoor program was important, I often made the mistake of discounting it as the “fun part” in favor of our leadership and service training.
I thought that funders and the community were more interested in leadership and service – and as I was, they probably are without some more education on our part. I would often say we were not a hiking and camping club and that the outdoor program we offer was how we attracted boys – and their dads – to Scouting so that we could develop their character.
But they, and I, were wrong. Getting young people outdoors is at least as important as the other things Scouting teaches.
In retrospect, considering my outdoor program background, all I have read about youth development, and my admiration of men like Waite Phillips – who gave us Philmont because of his belief that outdoor education was vital and that the BSA was the best at providing that education – I am surprised that I have not had a better understanding of something so obvious earlier. I guess that sometimes we really are too close to something to really see it until it kicks us in the teeth.
That research, and now the publication of the related book, Last Child in the Woods really elevated the value of our outdoor program in my mind, and has in my subsequent presentations about Scouting.
I urge you to read the book as soon as you can. On its back cover here is something it says: (The author) “directly links the absence of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This is the first book to bring together a body of research indication that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.”
I have always been convinced that there is no program, properly run, that is as comprehensive in the development of a young person as our program is. After reading Last Child in the Woods I am even more convinced, and even less surprised, so many of our alumni are the leaders of our community and nation.