The Gift of Nature

First Fall Color Day (10/19/19) Dan Varvais

Few gifts last a lifetime. Nature is one of them.

However, with each generation, fewer Americans are passing this gift to their children.

Well documented concerns about youth detachment from outdoor activities, lack of physical exercise, and increased obesity and health risks, have alarmed many who believe American children are being hurt by the erosion of our country’s cultural connection to nature and outdoor recreation.

Numerous studies have shown that children who participate in outdoor recreational activities are healthier, do better in school, have better social skills and self image, and lead more fulfilled lives.

In response, California became the first state to establish a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. It states that every child should, before their 15th birthday, have had the opportunity to:

  • Discover California’s past
  • Splash in the water
  • Play in a safe place
  • Camp under the stars
  • Explore nature
  • Learn to swim
  • Play on a team
  • Follow a trail
  • Catch a fish, and
  • Celebrate their heritage.

It’s a pretty simple, flexible and achievable list of outdoor rights. Fundamentally, they embody the right to experience the outdoors, outdoor play and outdoor learning. The idea is that family and guardians provide these experiences to children more than once, though many children never get the chance to do all of them, or perhaps even any of them.

Considering the mesmerizing enticements of digital distractions (e.g., video games, TV, social media), if parents, grandparents, guardians and family members don’t introduce children to nature and outdoor activities, this generation will be entirely disassociated from the outdoors.

Color spotters Dan and Connie Varvais checked off several of the above rights for their grandson when they took to Lundy Canyon in the Eastern Sierra for his first fall color day … one they’ve allowed us to share.