Recent research commissioned by the National Trust highlights that British children are exhibiting signs of a modern phenomenon called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. This is caused by a lack of engagement with the natural world and can lead to diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, among other symptoms. Evidence suggests the problem is worse in the UK than other parts of Europe, and may help explain poor UK rankings in childhood satisfaction surveys.
The National Trust noted that statistics reveal that things have changed dramatically in just one generation:
-Fewer than ten per cent of kids play in wild places; down from 50 per cent a generation ago.
-The roaming radius for kids has declined by 90 per cent in one generation (thirty years)
-Three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed, as from falling out of trees
-A 2008 study showed that half of all kids had been stopped from climbing trees, 20 per cent had been banned from playing conkers or games of tag.
One local school in particular is taking the matter seriously. Steiner education encourages active engagement with the natural world and Lancaster Steiner School would like to invite parents to an open day this Friday 27 April, from 2.30 - 4.30pm to find out more. (website: http://www.lancastersteiner.org.uk/)
Lancaster Steiner School has existed at Lune Road in Lancaster since 1999. The school does not follow the national curriculum, but is part of a network of thousands of Steiner schools world-wide, and approximately 40 in the UK. It follows the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (www.steinerwaldorf.org).
You can read a previous article about the school's philosophy here.
The school is a independent school, however, which means that an education there comes at a price that not everyone can afford. The full school fees are approx £4000 a year, but there is a bursary scheme available for parents on a low income. Kindergarten children are eligible for the early years vouchers, so we are told that the fees are can be very low (depending on number of days the child goes). You can read the school's most recent Ofsted Inspection Report here.
Lancaster City Council's Junior Play Rangers offer a number of excellent free activity days through the year in local parks teaching handy woodcraft skills that many parents would envy. The Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve Wildlife Explorers Club for 8-14 year olds also meets every month for some real wildlife action. But if we really want to see our kids regularly come home with mud in their ears and smiles on their faces, we need to protect the few precious natural green spaces the city still has left within their reach.