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Last Child Into the Woods – Let’s Get Our Girl Scouts Outside!

Penny Roberts, a member of the Outdoor Programs Committee who also directs three camps as a volunteer director at Meadow Mountain Ranch as a Volunteer Outdoor Program Director recently attended a discussion group at the Estes Public Library on the book Last Child Into the Woods by Richard Louv.

This book, published a few years ago, has been a hot topic of conversation about helping get kids outside and having authentic nature based experiences as an essential part of their development. Here is a report by Penny on what she learned:

Recently, I attended a very interesting and engaging group discussion facilitated by the Estes Park Library about the provocative book, “Last Child in the Woods,” by Richard Louv.  To say that the ideas presented in this book are important and insightful is an understatement, and I would really like to encourage all troops, groups and staff members working in any capacity with the Girl Scouts to read it.  Buy one copy and pass it around to all in your area, and then look to incorporate the ideas presented into many activities with your girls and indeed with all parents, teachers and adults with which your girls have contact. 

Richard Louv presents the idea of “nature deficit disorder,” with the idea that all of us need to spend more time outdoors.  This discussion group’s membership was quite diverse, including younger and older folks, men and women, teachers, students, professionals, retired people and others.  Outdoor education staffers, park service employees, and well-read people from all walks of life were involved, and the discussion was quite wide-ranging and lively.  My report will includes specifics from my notes that give an overview of thoughts presented in the form of a list.

The general discussion topic was divided into 3 more specific topics designed to get our interaction going: 

#1: Reasons why kids aren’t outside

  1. Danger/fear/safety issues – including these things passed on to children by adults; latch-key kids and their situations

  2. Technology – –  all those devices and gadgets

  3. Overscheduled – – school, home, other requirements

  4. Family strains, including time & cost constraints

  5. Lack of accessible outdoor play areas or knowledge of these

  6. Parental conditioning/societal emphases

  7. Demands towards competitive sports

  8. Demands toward some way to excel

  9. Ways to profit from children’s activities

  10. Population explosion – lack of green belts

  11. Pressures to over-use what we have

  12. Need more space person

  13. Some kids say they would “rather be in jail than in the outdoors”

#2: Skills Lacking in children today 

  1. Problem solving

  2. Lack of creativity

  3. Orientation/navigation (by a certain time in their young lives)

  4. Survival skills

  5. Social skills

  6. “Coping with boredom”

  7. Respect for nature

  8. Understanding of interconnectedness

  9. Sensual connectedness/sensory skills

  10. Identification of organisms – biology, zoology, geology, science in general

  11. Out of touch with their own bodies

  12. Losing art, music and creative writing

  13. Delayed gratification

  14. Patience

  15. “The journey” of life

  16. Male/female differences

  17. Extremes of most everything in their lives, lack of ability to “simplify”

#3: Steps to take to overcome challenges in #1 and #2:

  1. Spread the word, read the book

  2. Vote for nature whenever possible

  3. Get involved on all levels – become an activist yourself

  4. Learn the ecology of what we are buying and eating (re: food labels, etc.)

  5. Publicity

  6. Visit urban pocket parks

  7. Watch TV shows like “Nature”

  8. Personal experiences – i.e., adults sharing their history with children


  10. Parental Ed / involvement

I am an active member of the Outdoor Program Committee of the Girl Scouts of Colorado and this group is working hard to bring more outdoor programs to all areas of activities for Girl Scouts of all ages.  The ideas presented in this book would lead us to make a general guideline – – give your troop/group/girls get a chance to go outside at least once a month during Girl Scout activities.  Plan for events in all seasons of the year.  Call on us committee members to help you create and organize activities if you need help.  Interconnect with outdoor education groups in your town or area – – – parks, zoos, playgrounds, bike paths, hiking trails, high adventure options, etc.  If adults need encouragement, let’s plan activities to get THEM outdoors as well, so that adults can be turned on by the excitement of the out-of-doors, so that they can pass the legacy on to the girls. 

If you are looking for an organized experience outdoors, this summer we have several Troop Camps planned. Check them out and register here.

Penny leads Troop Camps called Meadow Mountain Ranch Core Camp 1 (7/24-7/27) and Core Camp 2 (7/27-7/30) at Meadow Mountain Ranch . To register your troop, contact Jennifer Hayes “Wally” .

Penny also leads the Meadow Mountain Ranch Women’s Week, a camp for adult women who want to experience the fellowship of camp. (How many times do you think, “I wish I could go to camp!” when you drop your daughter at a camp program?). Women’s Week is 7/20-7/24, contact Penny “Pan” Roberts to register or with your questions.

Learn more about these and many other outdoor options for your girl or troop this summer. Register for GSCO camp programs here. Please contact Outdoor Programs Director Betsy Till or Manager of Outdoor Volunteer Programs Haley Peel for more information.

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