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Getting Back to Nature is Child's Play

By: for The Guardian on Oct. 2, 2010
World News
Photo Credits: The Guardian / Gareth Davies
Kim Yucksei, with two-year old granddaughter Rosie and friend Ashton looking at the recipe tree on their estate in east London.
Schemes are growing up around the UK that seek to reconnect inner city children with nature by encouraging them to appreciate the bugs and birds on their doorstep.

"We want to let people know that they can just go outside their front door to see wildlife," says Isabel MacLennan, development officer of Nottinghamshire Wildlife trust.

Next month will see the official launch of Wildlife in the City, a collaboration between Nottingham city council and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, that will focus on 10 groups within the city failing to make use of their local green spaces and with a poor understanding of the benefits of doing so.

One of the key focuses of Wildlife in the City is the attitudes of children. In outreach work done by the trust earlier this year in preparation for the project, children were asked where they go to see nature. Many said they would have to go on jungle and safari trips; one answered that their family didn't have a car.

"People aren't accessing natural spaces, or if they are they're not really understanding or appreciating what's there," says MacLennan.

A UK survey commissioned this summer by the Eden TV channel, looking at 2,000 eight- to 12-year-olds, found that a fifth had never climbed a tree or visited a farm, more than a quarter did not know what happens to a bee after it stings you, and a third play outside only once a week or less.

Nature-deficit disorder

US author Richard Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, to describe the trend of children spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioural problems.

MacLennan agrees that it is particularly important for children to connect with nature. "There are health and social benefits associated with access to natural spaces. And if you work with people from a young age, they'll hopefully carry that through to when they're older," she says.

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