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Television versus trees

Lisa Purcell, co-author of Hands-On Nature and director of the Four Winds Nature Institute in Vermont said, "Adults and children both benefit from spending time outdoors together. Children are naturally curious and learn about the world around them by looking, touching, exploring and asking what seems like endless questions. We adults can encourage this process, and prevent videophilia, by spending uninterrupted, unstructured time with kids outside. Turn off the TV, ignore those text messages, close up the laptop, and appreciate the world through a child's eyes."

In the Conservancy-funded study, researchers pointed out that outdoor play and nature experience have proven beneficial for cognitive functioning, an increase in self-discipline and emotional well being at all developmental stages. But American children, on average, are spending only 30 minutes of unstructured time outdoors each week.

Bob Klein, Director of the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy noted, "This alienation from nature is a growing trend worldwide and could be the most serious threat to conservation for future generations." He added, "Today, the majority of humans live in cities, and urbanization is accelerating so rapidly that by 2050 only a small portion of the human population will live outside urban areas. Even in Vermont we are becoming disconnected from the natural landscapes, and over time people understand less how their well being is inextricably linked to the health of the natural world."

Several Vermont organizations involved in outdoor recreation, health and child services have joined forces to work to reverse this trend with the "No Child Left Inside" program. Whipple adds. "We are working hard to deliver the message that playing outdoors can improve the physical and emotional health of children and can help create the next generation of environmental stewards."

The Conservancy continues to step up its efforts to engage young people in environmental and conservation issues, through a variety of programs. Volunteer youth crews from New York City high schools, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and the National Civilian Community Corps are volunteering at nature preserves around Vermont this month, getting hands-on experience with nature and improving trails for future visitors. Throughout August volunteers of all ages can enjoy a fun day on the water pulling water chestnut with Conservancy staff, and on August 25th families are invited to join an Open House at North Pawlet Hills Natural Area to hike the newly improved summit trail.

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