Brad Ross: Keeping our kids connected to outdoors

Brad Ross - Contributing columnist

During a family dinner at a restaurant recently, my son was sharing his frustrations about trying to get his boys to put down their video games and get outside to play in the leaf piles in the backyard.

He reflected on how he spent his waking hours playing in the creek with the dog at the back of the farm, catching crawdads and swinging across the creek on the grapevines. I chuckled to myself as I thought about his explorations and how they came to an abrupt halt soon after his mother bought him his first Super Mario video game.

Recent studies have shown that as children become more acclimated to the use of technology and social media, they spend less and less time outdoors. This is a concern, not only for the development of the child and his or her loss of the outdoor experience, but it is bad for nature.

Think about it: If in 20 years these same children are decision-makers in our society and they know very little or care very little about the outdoors, how might that affect their ability to care for our environment? Will they recognize the need for public and/or nonprofit programs that protect our water quality, or endangered species, or our local, state and national parks? Without exposure to the outdoors, I doubt they can begin to appreciate the importance of protecting our vital natural resources.

It is for this reason soil and water conservation districts across Ohio and the nation provide assistance to educators. One of our goals is to help educators feel more comfortable in addressing environmental issues as they develop lesson plans and teach in the outdoors. Parents have the first responsibility for exposing the kids to outdoor adventure. Teachers have the second opportunity of sharing the natural wonders that open kids’ eyes and amaze them. The soil and water conservation districts provide learning opportunities for educators throughout the year — about conservation and environmental issues that they can transfer to students, regardless of the subject they teach.

Helping our youth to feel comfortable in the outdoors and excited about exploring its many natural wonders will go a long way to keeping them healthy and happy. In the long run, this will also encourage the sustainability of our world and its natural resources.

Brad Ross

Contributing columnist