The average American child now spends over 8 hours in front of a screen each day. She emails, texts, and updates her status incessantly. He can name hundreds of corporate logos, but less than ten native plants. She aspires to have hundreds of online friends, most she may never meet in person. He masters complicated situations presented in game after game, but often avoids simple person-to-person conversation. They are almost entirely out of contact with the world that, over millions of years of evolution, shaped human beings — the natural world.
Play Again is a remarkable documentary on the impact of our screen-dominated culture on kids and their relationship to the natural world. In it, filmmakers follow 6 teenagers as they unplug and embark on “a wilderness adventure – no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality.” Balanced by expert commentary from the likes of sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben and others, the film “investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and encourages action for a sustainable future.”
As we mentioned in our previous post about this film, Yoga Calm is committed to providing tools and resources to counter trends like those in the opening quote above – including, this year, our first ever Yoga Calm Summer Camp. One of our newest Certified Instructors, Dr. Nadia Delshad, was at Still Moving Yoga here in Portland, Oregon, for our inaugural camp and recently sent us her reflections on the experience:
The Beauty of Yoga Calm Summer Camp
With smiling hearts, new friendships and beautiful memories created, 13 children said goodbye to one another after spending a very special week at Yoga Calm Summer Camp. Together, they had developed wellness habits, environmental awareness, social skills and creative expression amongst the idyllic strawberry-lined paths, lush trees and gardens of Lynea and Jim Gillen’s tranquil studios in Southwest Portland.
In addition to her many years of counseling and yoga practice, Lynea also has had substantial experience in facilitating summer art camps. Tapping into this for Yoga Calm Summer Camp, she created – in her wonderfully unique style – a peaceful, creative and meaningful experience for both children and staff. Richly significant connections between personal and planetary health were fostered, and creative ways of continuing to respect this relationship, encouraged.
Lynea’s and Leah Schuyler’s good work in both developing this comprehensive environmental education program (Leah has a degree in Ecopsychology) and leading the sessions was complemented by that of Lynea’s husband Jim, a former environmental educator with the National Science Foundation who also created and tends to the beautiful gardens that served as setting for the camp.
If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.” – David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia
I was privileged to share this week with wonderful young human beings and observe how each day the children became physically and emotionally stronger, kinder to one another, more connected to their environment and more empowered through a deeper knowledge of nature’s wonders. Consistently, I thought of how strongly I wanted every person on this planet – children and adults alike – to be able to have this same experience, which I will certainly treasure for a lifetime. For as the mother of two toddler boys, I often wonder at the environment they will find themselves in through their journey into adulthood. I deeply hope that we, collectively, are able to preserve the beautiful blessings of nature that we have been so fortunate to have inherited. Nature has given us so much – provides us with so many gifts. I want us to pass these blessings on to following generations. We eat and breathe and drink only because of nature. We are all a part of nature, and teaching our children gratitude will ensure our survival on this planet.
To trace the history of a river or a raindrop, as John Muir would have done, is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body. In both, we constantly seek and stumble on divinity…. – Gretel Ehrlich
At the end of camp week, the children shared how they had enjoyed creating their personal bonding experience on the land and connecting to that special place for quiet reflection each day. They had fun picking berries and planting herbs. They loved learning to drum and challenged themselves in yoga poses and sequences. One young boy said that he loved “everything” about yoga camp – that it was the best camp he had ever been to.
It was certainly the best camp I had ever been to!
Thank you to all those good human beings who were involved in making this wonderful week possible, and may many children be as fortunate to experience this beauty in their lives and hearts in the future.
Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. – Luther Standing Bear
Just as a child has that magical capacity to move among the earth, I am reminded that if we allow ourselves as adults we too can “see the land as an animal does; experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.” – Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth
Nadia Delshad, PsyD, is a Certified Yoga Calm Instructor, clinical psychologist and hypnotherapist who has worked with children and families for over 17 years. She has an MS in developmental child psychology and a PsyD in clinical psychology. She is currently teaching Yoga Calm and social-emotional skills training to children from preschool through 5th Grade with a family coaching method component for parents. You can find her at Young Yogis on Facebook.