A walk through the woods of southern Westchester may offer more than just a few hours of fresh air and exercise for a child. Research shows that time spent outdoors is good for their psychological and emotional development, according to the Rye YMCA’s Director of Community Impact and Social Responsibility Denise Woodin.
Woodin and Christine Siller of the Rye Nature Center have organized a community collaboration that will bring environmentalists, teachers, parents, advocates, youth leaders and businesspeople together to address the importance of getting kids outside.
“I was inspired by my 10-year-old daughter. Walking through the woods and seeing that look on her face as she climbs over logs and scales rocks,” Woodin said.
She believes all children should get used to regularly experiencing this kind of exploration and imagination.
Several weeks ago Woodin attended a YMCA conference called Healthier Communities Learning Institute in Denver and there was one workshop on Outdoor Play Strategies. She and Siller also are familiar with author Richard Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods," which coined "nature deficit disorder," a term to describe the disconnect between the current generation of children and the natural world. The book and conference inspired Woodin to reach out to the Rye Nature Center (RNC) and see how the two groups could work together to address nature deficit disorder.
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The Y and RNC have collaborated before, and RNC’s Executive Director Christine Siller was glad to join Woodin in her efforts.
“There is definitely and intersection of our missions,” Siller said of the two organizations. The RNC has several kids programs designed to get kids outside on hiking trails and physically interacting with animals, which leads to science education. RNC also promotes programs that protect natural resources and promote environmental awareness. The Y promotes positive values through programs that build spirit, mind and body.
The two explained an “ecophobia” they see in well-intentioned parents that want kids to be healthy, organic and outdoorsy, but who are then too nervous to let kids explore and get dirty.
“We need to get parents to overcome their fears and get outside in simple ways,” Woodin said.
Woodin and Siller hope their discussion will first help get kids outdoors and then grow to encourage older children, teens and adults to spend more time in nature.
The two will host the Kids Outdoors Community Collaboration to Address Nature Deficit Disorder on Wed., Oct. 24 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. with invited community leaders at the Rye Nature Center. Check back with Patch for updates on the outcome of that conversation.