Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods

Blog Posts: June 2011

The Nature Principle in Education: an Antidote to Teacher Burnout

“Connected and honored, natural teachers could inspire other teachers; they could become a galvanizingforce within their schools. In the process, they would contribute to their own psychological, physical, and spiritual health.”— The Nature Principle

Not long ago, I was speaking with a middle school principal in Austin who was sympathetic to the cause, but felt overwhelmed by all the demands that he and his colleagues already face. “Look, you want me to add this to my plate when it’s already overflowing?” he said. “I can’t do this without outside help.”

He was right. Bringing the classroom to nature and nature to the classroom is an enormous task, and educators need community and political support. Schools, businesses and outdoor organizations can work together to introduce students to nature centers and parks, and sponsor or promote overnight camping trips. Parent-teacher groups can raise financial support for field trips and nature programs; they can sponsor family nature nights at schools; they can give awards to those teachers who, year after year, get their students outside.

No doubt about it, schools need community support. But educators can lead the way, and one teacher can make a difference — especially if he or she reaches out to another.

Both THE NATURE PRINCIPLE and LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS offer chapters on education. And in the video above, I share some thoughts about education with filmmaker Camilla Rockwell. But here are a few additional resources to get started (and keep going):

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Ten Reasons Why Children and Adults Need Vitamin N

I recall my father's dark tanned neck, creased with lines of dust, as he tilled our garden. I ran ahead of him, pulling rocks and bones and toys from his path." -- The Nature Principle 

In "Last Child in the Woods,” I focused on why children need nature. In my new book, “The Nature Principle,” I tell how the whole family – and whole communities -- can become happier, healthier and smarter through more contact with the natural world. I do hope you'll read the book to find out how, but for starters, here are 10 reasons children and adults need nature: Read Full Post.

THE MORALITY OF DOGS

For years, I have secretly believed that the dog I grew up with was something of a moral teacher in our family. Admitting this belief, I invite all sorts of critiques from those who, for religious or scientific reasons, object to attributing humanlike behavior to nonhuman animals. So be it. I'll bet you had such a special friend, too.

Not long ago, I asked an animal behavioralist if dogs can be moral teachers to children. (I suppose they can be moral teachers to adults, too, but children and dogs, like Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey, can be especially attuned.) This particular animal behaviorist also earned a doctorate in the psychology of human behavior, and he is an expert on pet therapy for children.

Pets, he said, are often moral teachers, though that is not their intent. For example, pets teach children about death. "The death of a dog or cat can be the single most profound loss a human being can experience. Some people don't want to accept the fact that an animal can mean as much, or more, to a human being as another member of the family. But it can. Children learn about dying; they can afford this price more than they can the loss of a parent."

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