anyone using technology to reduce "Nature Deficit Disorder"?

You've probably heard the talk about how children are losing touch with the nature around them. I read the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Kids from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. It provokes a lot of thought. Here's an article in Salon magazine that talks about the book and author:

I'm wondering what CR2.0 people are doing, or have seen done, to get kids actively in touch with nature while also using technology for discovery, presentation, and communication.

Any feedback on this?

Tags: nature, science, technology

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We've done two outdoors projects this year. CSI: Cemetery Scene Investigation sent us out to local cemeteries. This fall we joined our art teacher for an architectural walking tour. We took along cameras, videos, GPS, Palms. Great fun--don't know if we got in touch with nature--but you could see those "outdoor" kids just light up!!
As artists, ecologists and educators, we are always looking for ways to creatively involve children with "nature" experiences...

For an installation last summer my husband and I used PD and sensor technology to encourage kids to care for a bed of wheat grass- when they stepped on a stone (with a sensor underneath) an audio signal would sound in the gallery- when the grass was at an optimal moisture level another audio tone would sound- harmonious to the footstep audio (if it was too wet or too dry the sounds would be 'off')
here's a link to the project: (click on excavate)

here's some pics:

What a great project! Thanks for sharing Amy.
This is a totally non-techie aside, but your fabulous grass project and pictures remind me of the short story "Antaeus" by Mississippi writer Borden Deal. We read this story in ninth grade every year as part of a thematic unit -- "Who am I?" Never thought about it in this way before, but it's totally a story about nature deficit disorder. And I guess the original Greek myth in which Hercules defeats Antaeus by lifting him off of Mother Earth (the source of his strength and power) may be one of the earliest tales about nature deficit disorder!

Both of these literature resources might be useful for those planning a secondary-level interdisciplinary unit about "getting back to nature."

Also, if you are an English teacher who wants to instill an appreciation for setting and place, check out the link to GoogleLitTrips, which was in today's Classroom 2.0 blog.

Interesting topic, Connie. I passed it up at first -- glad I stopped back in!
Mmm. Fabulous topic - got the mind going, although in my realms, probably not implementable. I like the idea of the reconstructed excursion, images with annotations a la flickr etc. Even a photo history/slide show of land degradation, erosion, reclamation, regradation. Keys are the gathering of real data in the open air, and perhaps then the examination of archival data, and some analysis. (eg Mark Twain has a wonderful passage discussing erosion on the Mississippi delta, and pointing out that way back in the past it must have stuck out in space like a fishing pole!)
But now that the brain's been awakened, next time I'm dealing with creation and responsibility, I have a whole new perspective and range of actions available for us.
You could choose some atmospheric setting for literature - Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, or the Seawards stories(Yes, I'm sure there are very modern works, but I'm an old dude) all have a range of landscapes painted - a video with story narration over could be great - small video bites would do- a well designed slideshow with transitions. A photo essay with an author?

It may be, after all, Jennifer that I'll be into media despite myself!
I love that book too! As parents of two kids, we are concerned about the same thing, as well as aghast at the way we treat the planet overall and the trajectory of where it's headed. So we started, which we hope is a new way to look at the problem.

We wanted to help move people from acting out of fear and guilt to realizing how much they love the planet and want to care for it, and to move from trying to get other people to act to trying to do all we can do everyday as individuals, because we care about this place! Planetfesto is trying to build a virtual ribbon of 6" squares to circle the earth. Each piece of the ribbon has a photo or drawing expressing what you love most about the planet, a brief statement of why you love it, and actions of what you pledge to do to protect it. It combines writing, art, science, and has pieces from 37 countries.

Many schools have come on board (the village school in maine is making enough squares to circle their gym, and they've challenged a school in burrton, Kansas to see who can get the highest % of kids on board.) What teachers are liking is that it is prompting new conversations about nature, as well as projects like photographing their surroundings, talking about the impact of their actions, etc. We have lots of tools and ideas on the site as well. I also just started a group on this site where hopefully teachers can share how they are using planetfesto as a spring board for new attitudes that hopefully can last for a lifetime.
Clay Burell has an interesting staff development site, where he explores web 2.0 tools via multiple intelligences.

One of the intelligences is naturalistic, so there are a few websites on the wiki relating to that.

I think it is an excellent point that students need to be spending time in nature, and I also think some of these tools naturally lend themselves to that.

For example, having students create "flickr studies" with photographs of the elements, outdoor signs, plants, trees, trails, parks, etc....

Projects like the Global Cooling Project are also valuable ways to encourage students to think more environmentally.
Hey Connie
This one's taken off - we'll be so outdoors we'll all need some pretty modern laptops or decent extension cords, then again, maybe just the phones will do the job!
Hi Connie,

My passion is environmental education and it can sometimes be difficult getting techno-savvy kids out into the bush and connecting with nature. One successful project was building and installing nesting boxes at a local grassland reserve. We mapped the locations using GPS and monitor them to reduce feral birds and bees invading.
We have also produced videos, Powerpoints and Photostories about "Students Living Sustainably" - photographing and filming the environmental activities undertaken at school (composting, seed collection and propogation, tree planting, recycling etc), for entry into competitions, such as the "Sustainable Living Challenge'.
Another project is filming a 30-second advertisement for sustainability, as featured on the "Change the World" website:() it will feature nine short films based on the book 'Change the World for 10 Bucks', all aimed at inspiring a global conversation for change. (It's kind of a You-Tube for greenies.)
Regards, Britt.
Hi Connie,

Another thought was the National Geographic "Crittercams", an interactive site where students can 'build' their own camera to research various wild animals. The Gould League also has some good interactive spaces for looking at Food Webs etc.

regards, Britt.
Britt, I looked up Crittercams and found out just how marvelous it is! This week, I'll assign a student the job of making a presentation for others, of being classmates' "guide" through the site. Great! I've been looking for some more animals sites that are engaging, kid-friendly, and interactive. Thanks for another fine resource in this forum!
Hi Connie et al,

Here's an animal site that I and my students have found to be engaging, kid-friendly, and interactive:

This site originates at the University of California's James Reserve for Environmental Research in the San Jacinto Mountains near Idylwild, California. They have a variety of live cameras focused on birds' nests, wildlife feeding areas, and animal burrows.
What I love about the site is its interactivity, some of which was not intended by the James Reserve! For example, with the Robotic Camera, students anywhere in the world (mine are in Albania) can move the camera's viewpoint in various directions. But we found quite spontaneously that the very movement of the camera can affect the animals themselves. Once we saw a pair of squabbling Stellar's Jays perched on the camera itself, and by our moving the camera we spooked them and they flew off. Another time (my students swear this is true; I regret that I didn't witness this scene) there was a red-tailed hawk stalking a pigeon. My students scared the predator away by moving the camera from 10,000 miles away!
One victory for a pigeon; one loss for scientific objectivity and the researcher's non-interference with the experimental subject!




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