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5 March 2007

Connecting Youth with the Outdoors
Atlanta Forum


Connecting Youth with the Outdoors
Atlanta Forum March 9, 2007
Preparatory Council for National Symposium
in Washington DC (April 07)

Special foreword from EPIC and JSU Field Schools:
Jacksonville State University's Environmental Policy & Information Center including the Field Schools endorse this opportunity to meet with DC level researchers, interpreters, environmental educators, outdoor recreation experts, and public lands organizations. They encourage you to bring staff, friends, groups, and others to this FREE program. When this program was first developed it was thought to be a closed meeting. However, the organizer Rhonda Stewart has now opened this meeting to all who have an interest. We should all take the opportunity to attend. RSVP information is listed below

The American Recreation Coalition, National Forest Foundation, and Partners are concerned about the recent trends indicating reduced emphasis on outdoor recreation. This was recently illustrated by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. In this book the author argues that children desperately need to be able to play in the woods—and that our culture's sterile rejection of nature is harming them in body and soul. In the not-so-distant past, kids ruled the country's woods and valleys—running in packs, building secret forts and treehouses, hunting frogs and fish, playing hide-and-seek behind tall grasses. But in the last 30 years, says journalist Richard Louv, children of the digital age have become increasingly alienated from the natural world, with disastrous implications, not only for their physical fitness, but also for their long-term mental and spiritual heath.

In his new book, Louv argues that sensationalist media coverage and paranoid parents have literally "scared children straight out of the woods and fields," while promoting a litigious culture of fear that favors "safe" regimented sports over imaginative play. Well-meaning elementary school curricula may teach students everything there is to know about the Amazon rain forest's endangered species, but do little to encourage kids' personal relationship with the world outside their own doors. And advances in technology, while opening up a wealth of "virtual" experiences to the young, have made it easier and easier for children to spend less time outside.

Louv spent 10 years traveling around the country reporting and speaking to parents and children, in both rural and urban areas, about their experiences in nature. In "Last Child in the Woods," he pairs their anecdotes with a growing body of scientific research that suggests children who are given early and ongoing positive exposure to nature thrive in intellectual, spiritual and physical ways that their "shut-in" peers do not. By reducing stress, sharpening concentration, and promoting creative problem solving, "nature-play" is also emerging as a promising therapy for attention-deficit disorder and other childhood maladies.

Indeed Louv, in both the book's title and content, suggests that while increased exposure to nature may prove a salve for many of the childhood disorders that now run rampant, the very ubiquity of those disorders is evidence that two generations of alienation from nature may have already resulted in considerable harm to our kids.  Louv recently visited Salon's New York office to discuss the correlation between the decline in kids' contact with nature and the rising obesity epidemic; the criminalization of old-fashioned play; and the simple pleasure of having dirty hands and wet feet.

A major study came out a few months ago that said that the rate of obesity in children is growing faster in rural areas than it is in cities and suburbs. Again, it seems counterintuitive. But it's not so counterintuitive when you think about the fact that the family farm is fairly nonexistent now. Kids in rural areas are playing the same video games, watching the same television, and they're on longer car rides.

We need to turn this trend around before it is too late. Along with our partners, we seek to join together to actively involve youth in the outdoors, and connect with the next generation of caretakers of public lands.

Americans with ideas and commitment, for more than 100 years, have created opportunities to protect and enjoy our Great Outdoors. You are invited to contribute personally to this legacy.

The Atlanta Forum has been created to elicit ideas and input. This will provide the opportunity to provide concerns and proposals on connecting kids with nature & wildlife, and building the next generation of caretakers for our public lands. The forums will allow concerned individuals and organizations to share ideas, challenges and information about programs that deserve to expand to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Focus areas are Outdoor Challenges, Outdoor Projects and Outdoor Access, seeking input on meeting the needs of America's youth, incorporating technology into available information, improving the national health and education systems through outdoor recreation, ways to recruit and reward volunteers and several other regional topics.

The Forum is Free and offers you a chance to hear and exchange ideas with diverse participants, network with long-term colleagues and friends, provide an exhibit showcasing projects, and establish new connections with future partners. In addition, the forum will produce a summary of results, projects and ideas for the National Forum in Washington, DC, April 2007, as well as provide the groundwork for the Great Outdoors Month in June 2007.

The Forum will offer a direct chance to hear from you. A project submission form is available and is your chance to showcase your ideas and projects. These will be available at the Forum. Tell us about your great successes and great ideas!

For more than 100 years, Americans with ideas and commitment have helped created opportunities to protect and enjoy our Great Outdoors.  The need for good ideas and action continues, and you are invited to contribute personally to this legacy.

Five one-day regional Recreation Forums will be convened in March 2007 in Colorado, Georgia, California, Oregon and Illinois.  Each will allow caring individuals and organizations to share ideas, challenges and information about programs that deserve to expand to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.  Input on access and the needs of America's youth, ideas for improving the nation's health and education systems through recreation, ways to recruit and reward volunteers -- and other topics are sought.

The Forums will also offer a chance to hear from you.  Tell us about your great successes and great ideas!

We will provide completed examples at the Atlanta Forum, to take with you.  Click here for a copy of the Recreation Forum Project Form.

Please submit this to: Caroline Mitchell.

National and Regional Partners of the forum include: USDA Forest Service, Association County Commissioners of Georgia, Southeast Tourism Society, Jacksonville State University Environmental Policy & Information Center, The Conservation Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, National Recreation and Park Association, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Centers for Disease Control, Human Health and Services, US Fish and Wildlife, Ecological Society of America, Disney, Coleman Company, University of Tennessee, and others.

Date:      Friday, March 9, 2007
  East Cobb Co. Senior Center-Marietta, Cobb Co., Georgia
    8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
      FREE - No admission charge

For more information on this Atlanta Forum, see Logistics Information for Forum and Atlanta Forum Agenda.

Please RSVP to: or call (501)-321-5318.

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