I’d love to see more kids in summer camps… and more opportunities for city populations in general to touch the wild. – The Nature Fix
Florence Williams wouldn’t have to write much more than the lines above to gain my support and the support of camp directors across the world. We’ve been saying the same thing for years – more kids need summer camp. The difference between Florence and the camp director community, is that Florence has pulled together an inspiring collection of scientific research that outlines how being in nature improves our lives.
The director of another Y overnight camp recently recommended that I read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. I was already convinced from personal experience that time spent in nature was a good thing, but I thought some concrete evidence couldn’t hurt. Had you asked me a year ago why nature makes my happier, I probably would have said something to the effect of, “The fresh air.”
Now I can tell you that nature rejuvenates all of my senses and leads to lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and many other incredible health benefits starting within minutes of being exposed to true nature (opposed to a tree-lined city street). I can point to the most soothing sounds for humans (wind, water, and birds) as mechanisms for inner calm found when walking silently on a nature trail. I can start to explain that scientists have realized that breathing dirty air can damage our brains via a nose-brain connection. Along with a multitude of other findings, these facts are why doctors in some countries now prescribe time in nature to patients as an antidote to various physical and emotional symptoms.
Two other thoughts that resonate greatly from Florence Williams’ writing:
1) Adolescents don’t spend enough time in nature anymore and because of this deficit, true nature can be scary.
2) The benefits of time in nature dramatically increase as the duration, or dosage, in nature is increased.
What does this all mean for us at camp? It means that we must support campers to overcome their fears of nature for them to fully benefit from camp, which reinforces the value of our multi-week experiences. The Nature Fix also shows that Camp Echo’s 512 acres of forest, swamps, and hiking trails, and our adventure trips that venture into deeper wilderness, are changing our campers lives by making them physically and mentally healthier.
Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places.
SPIRIT – MIND – BODY
Branch Executive Director, Camp Echo