Monday, April 16, 2018

Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life {Book Club}

I remember the day I realized I was raising city kids. As a child growing up in a small valley in Southern Oregon, visiting the city of Portland was intimidating and felt huuuuge. But we've now been here a decade and all my kids were born here, and it's what they know. They know the city! So strange.

Although we are fortunate to live in a very lush part of the United States with wilderness and natural areas close by, it's quite often that the pace of city living and the traffic, air quality, and general busy-ness of life still gets overwhelming. Even something as annoying as a bright streetlight shining in the window will sometime just put me over the edge.

If you've read or heard of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, you might be interested in his book Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" and has compiled a solid body of research and reasoning for why kids should have a strong connection to the natural world.

While nature-deficit disorder is not a real diagnosis, according to Louv, it is "the price paid, particularly by children, for our societal disconnect from the natural world." The antidote? Vitamin Nature - or Vitamin N. 

I picked this book up at Powell's a few weekends ago, and it's already been a great tool to stoke my creativity in how we engage nature with our little city kids, and I'm hopeful that being intentional will help foster a healthy and dynamic relationship between them and the wilderness for the rest of their lives. And the adults need it, too!

The first page of the introduction opens with this story:

"In 2009, Janet Ady of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stood before a crowd of grassroots leaders gathered from across the nation by the Children and Nature Network. She held up an outsized pharmacy bottle...the label read: 

DIRECTIONS: Use daily, outdoors in nature. Go on a nature walk, watch birds, observe trees. Practice respectful outdoor behavior in solitude or take with friends and family. REFILLS: Unlimited. EXPIRES: Never. 

Here was a deceptively simple treatment for improving physical and mental health, for stimulating learning, creativity, and a sense of being fully alive..."

Vitamin N builds upon his research and is a more simplified, accessible guidebook style with lists galore of ways to encourage engagement with nature while also building strong family and community connections.

There are over 500 activities for children, adults, families, and professionals, sprinkled with essays, personal experiences, resources, and testimonies from families. It's creative and full of inspiration for those times when you know you want to get outside with your kids - or yourself - but don't want to do the normal park-and-hike.

Vitamin N is divided into eight parts covering different themes:

- The Gift of Memory
Example: Simple ways to expand time and space for kids and adults (p.7)

- Ways of Knowing the World
Example: Discover the lost art of finding your way (p.31)

- The Nature-Rich Home and Garden
Example: Build a backyard nature preserve (p.75)

- Nurturing Natural Resilience
Example: A brief developmental guide to nature play (p.105)

- Go Wild and Wilder
Example: Nurture your inner hunter & gatherer (p.140)

- Grow Outside: The Nature Prescription
Example: Create your own nature gym (p.157)

- The School of Nature
Example: Ignite natural learning at home and school (p.190)

- The Nature-Rich Community
Example: What every parent, teacher, and young person needs to know about the coming opportunities in nature-smart careers (p.215)

Check is out and let me know what you think! I'm also making a goal for our family this summer to try a new activity from this book every week. Maybe we'll make it an official nature challenge and share our experiences here.

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