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Build healthy connections to nature

Insights highlight nature's integral connections to the human spirit.  On image of bloom in America's Sonoran Desert.
Insights highlight nature's integral connections to the human spirit. On image of bloom in America's Sonoran Desert.
Florence McGinn and Dr. Joseph T. McGinn

An appreciation of nature enriches human life in all its seasons. For modern children, living in a world rich with technology, digital adventures, and urban experiences, it can be difficult to find time for explorations and discoveries in the outside, natural world. Still, experiencing natural marvels and developing insights into nature are essential elements of childhood. For healthy balance, savvy parents carve out space for a child’s understanding of nature, for as stated by Muso Soseki, it is “Time for a walk in the world outside/And a look at who I am.” Finding time to build a child’s connections to nature remains integral to healthy harmony.

Build a child's healthy interaction with nature to nurture strong, balanced physical and mental growth.
Dr. Joseph T. McGinn & Florence McGinn

Healthy behaviors

Healthy connections to the outside world encompass the needs of a child’s mind, spirit, and body. Time to build reflections and insights into nature are well-linked to a child’s needs for exercise, exploration, and adventure. It is a current, national issue, for according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Already, in America, more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Healthy challenges

Nature’s richness arouses the young mind and challenges the youthful body. Hiking, biking, and simply walking in nature exercises the body while establishing a child’s complex connections to landscapes, wildlife, forests, blossoms, gardens, and parks. Experiencing nature, both physically and mentally, opens up a child’s essential sense of discovery and adventure.

Healthy guidance

Involved parents can guide to a sense of natural wonder while opening up opportunities for exercise, learning, and reflection. American naturalist Rachel Carson identified mentorship’s integral role, pinpointing that “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Strong, loving relationships receive lasting, positive reinforcements when nature’s beauty and richness are explored together.

Healthy balance

Exploring nature creates opportunities for physical exercise to go hand-in-hand with strength-building in areas of mind and spirit. As young bodies grow stronger through walks, hikes, biking, rock climbing, swimming, and other outdoor challenges, young spirits gain, too. Rachel Carson noted the lifelong quality inherent in a deep appreciation of a nature, stating “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

Healthy abilities

A child’s learning gains strength, too, in establishing deep connections to nature. Building strength and harmony connected to nature and the outside world tap what Howard Gardner, a Harvard educator, MacArthur Prize Fellowship recipient, and author of 25 books, describes as the “naturalist intelligence” in his multiple intelligences theories. The naturalist intelligence establishes human insight into nature and the environment. It builds abilities linked to a sensitive, discriminating awareness and understanding of the natural world.

Quotations on nature

Rachel Carson indicated, “In nature nothing exists alone.” Today’s Digital Age parents are challenged more than ever to nurture healthy, natural connections to foundation the modern child’s growth and balance in the 21st century. Nature is a pivotal key, for when a child answers the quest call identified by John Muir, “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” rewarding paths to fresh, natural resources of strength are opened.

Naturalist John Muir also stated, “Let children walk with nature,” for he recognized, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” The archetypal reach of nature, for the human mind and body in all of life’s seasons, is the focus of the quotations below and in the slideshow accompanying this article. Reflections and insights about nature identify its power and integral connections to the human spirit.

1. “There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became.
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years. – Walt Whitman

2. “Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry

3. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” -- Annie Dillard

4. “Let the rain kiss you.” -- Langston Hughes

5. “To see things in the seed, that is genius.” -- Lao Tzu

6. “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” -- Aristotle

7. “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons: It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” -- Walt Whitman

8. "The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.” -- Anne Frank

9. “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” -- e.e. Cummings

10. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” -- John Muir

11. “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” -- Henri Matisse

12. “Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” -- Blaise Pascal

13. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” -- Albert Einstein

14. “Lose yourself in nature and find peace.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

15. “In the wilderness is the preservation of the world.” -- Henry David Thoreau

16. “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American proverb

17. “We all live downstream.” – Geneticist David Suzuki

18. “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. – Frank Lloyd Wright

19. “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” -- Richard Feynman

20. “It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” -- Rachel Carson

Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and Local Education as well as National and International Travel materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively as photonaturalists and writers. One is an experienced, retired scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in pharmaceutical and optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year.

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