An Overview of Last Child in the Woods

Bookcover - Last Child in the Woods

In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard.

This new edition reflects the enormous changes that have taken place since the book was originally published. It includes:

  • 100 actions you can take to create change in your community, school, and family.
  • 35 discussion points to inspire people of all ages to talk about the importance of nature in their lives.
  • A new progress report by the author about the growing Leave No Child Inside movement.
  • New and updated research confirming that direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder has spurred a national dialogue among educators, health professionals, parents, developers and conservationists. This is a book that will change the way you think about your future and the future of your children.

Nature Activities for Kids and Families

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Preschool Philosophies At-a-Glance

waldorf? play-based? montessori? what does it all mean?

from The Savvy Source for Parents

Schools come in all different shapes and sizes, so wouldn’t it be nice if you could make some safe assumptions about certain preschool designs?

We’ve heard numerous complaints from parents disappointed that the school design they thought they’d chosen for their children was not at all what they got. There is enormous variation even among designs that supposedly follow a prescribed plan for values, materials, instruction and school organization. Some preschools do a design well, and others do not. That said, we know you’re hungry for any knowledge that can help you cut through the clutter of information about preschools, so here is help navigating the many different preschool designs. You most likely will find variations on these and other, less common designs available in your area.

Free Play or “Play-Based”

Philosophy: Young children develop full complement of cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills best when most of preschool day includes free play with materials that can be used individually or by small groups. Free play avoids decreased risk-taking and cooperation among young children, who may feel that they have “failed” when asked to do more structured work.

Common Practices:

  • Use of hands-on materials, art and self-initiated projects
  • Free play with limits set by number of children who are able to play at a particular station
  • Limited (or no) use of worksheets and limited focus on letters and numbers

May Best Fit Children Who Are:

  • Hands-on learners
  • Exposed to literacy and math outside of preschool
  • Self-motivated learners

Predominantly Teacher-Led Instruction (or “Structured” or “Direct” Instruction)

Philosophy: Young children will best be prepared for academic success if they are taught fundamentals of literacy and math directly, using teacher-lead instruction, worksheets teaching letter and number symbols, and the like.

Common Practices:

  • Use of worksheets to teach letter and number symbols, sounds and meanings
  • Whole group activities led by teacher
  • Some free play/choice time, but not as much as play-based preschools

May Best Fit Children Who Are:

  • Lacking exposure to literacy and math outside of preschool
  • Behind developmentally in cognitive areas
  • Not strong hands-on learners, prefer to learn by looking and listening

Montessori

Philosophy: Develop culturally literate, self-disciplined children by nurturing their intelligence, independence, curiosity and creativity.

Common practices:

  • Classrooms are multi-age and students stay with one teacher for several years
  • Individual child choice about activities supporting individual learning styles
  • Materials are carefully structured to move individual children from one skill to the next
  • Task completion is valued and encouraged

May Best Fit Children Who Are:

  • Hands-on and visual learners – enjoy working with hands and visually stimulating materials
  • Not inclined to enjoy learning by listening and discussing (but some Montessori schools have many materials for small groups of students and encourage group “works” early – just ask)
  • Self-motivated learners
  • Advanced cognitively
  • Very hesitant to change and/or bond with new adults

Reggio Emilia

Philosophy: Emergent curriculum content and activities developed collaboratively by teachers and children to emphasize constructive thinking skills and the educational value of the planning and implementation process.

Common Practices:

  • Collaborative projects involving exploration, discussion and revision during process
  • Teacher is researcher who is an experimenter and learner along with children
  • Children choose activities with teacher input and support

May Best Fit Children Who Are:

  • Strong auditory learners, enjoy learning by listening and discussing
  • Strong hands-on learners, enjoy working with hands
  • Strong visual learners, stimulated by visually appealing environment
  • Exposed to literacy and math outside of preschool (academic content varies by program – just ask if this is a concern)
  • Self-motivated learners

Waldorf

Philosophy: Children learn best through experiences that awaken multiple senses and focus on capabilities.

Common Practices:

  • Students learn through experiences and personal exchange with teachers, rather than worksheets
  • Focus on developing intellectual, emotional, spiritual capabilities, not just content learning
  • Arts and physical activities used as learning tools
  • Intense study of one subject or topic over several weeks
  • Students stay with same teachers for many years

May Best Fit Children Who Are:

  • Strong hands-on learners, enjoy working with hands
  • Enjoy creative pursuits
  • Self-motivated learners
  • Exposed to literacy and math outside of preschool
  • Very hesitant to change and/or bond with new adults

Cooperative

Philosophy: Parents who know their own children’s needs can best guide a preschool toward excellence and integrate home and preschool life through significant, required parent participation in the preschool.

Common Practices:

  • Parents required to commit significant volunteer time to preschool operations
  • Strong parent community because of frequent contact at preschool
  • May use any design for curriculum and teaching method

May Best Fit Children Who Are:

  • Not applicable; preschool designs vary significantly

Race to Nowhere

“What does it take to produce a happy, motivated, creative human being?”

Race to Nowhere: The Darkside of America’s Achievement Culture

This remarkable new film shines a light on the price our kids pay for this “race to nowhere.” Cheating is commonplace, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and ironically, young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people who have been pushed to the brink and educators who are burned out and worried that students arenʼt developing the skills needed for the global economy, RACE TO NOWHERE points to the silent epidemic running rampant in our schools.

RACE TO NOWHERE is a call to families, educators, experts and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens in the 21st century.

Among many others, RACE TO NOWHERE features Dr. Madeline Levine, author of the bestseller, The Price of Privilege, Dr. Deborah Stipek, Dean of the Stanford School of Education, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Denise Pope, author of Doing School, and Sara Bennett, author of The Case Against Homework.

Vicki Abeles learned at an early age that the key to success is hard work and a good education. Raised by a struggling, single mom who encouraged her children to attend graduate school, she worked her way up from nothing to become a successful attorney and businesswoman. As a mother, Vicki wanted her children to have all the opportunities she lacked, growing up. But when her daughters reached middle school, they were overwhelmed by pressure from classes and extracurriculars. When one became physically sick, she and her husband realized they had to rethink the way they were raising and educating their children. Vicki took it upon herself to find out how our broken education system harms both children and adults, and what we can do to change it. It is this investigation that is depicted in this film. Vicki is the co-director of RACE TO NOWHERE.

The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers

Fascinating article by David Leonhardt on the economic implications of a strong, quality early childhood education.

“How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life?  Economists have generally thought that the answer was not much. Great teachers and early childhood programs can have a big short-term effect. But the impact tends to fade. By junior high and high school, children who had excellent early schooling do little better on tests than similar children who did not — which raises the demoralizing question of how much of a difference schools and teachers can make.

There has always been one major caveat, however, to the research on the fade-out effect. It was based mainly on test scores, not on a broader set of measures, like a child’s health or eventual earnings. As Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, says: “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.” ‘

The Future is in Our Classrooms

These are inspiring videos about the state of education in America, one particularly being an upcoming movie trailer.  How powerful, how thought-provoking, how important for the future of our children and our world.  This is what is at stake if we do not appropriately and swiftly address the crisis in public education today!

Waiting for “Superman”

The Future is in Our Classrooms