the film

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Leakin Park, Baltimore, MD

Mother Nature’s Child explores nature’s powerful role in children’s health and development through the experience of toddlers, children in middle childhood and adolescents. The film marks a moment in time when a living generation can still recall childhoods of free play outdoors; this will not be true for most children growing up today. The effects of “nature deficit disorder” are now being noted across the country in epidemics of child obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Mother Nature’s Child asks the questions: Why do children need unstructured time outside? What is the place of risk-taking in healthy child development? How is play a form of learning? Why are teachers resistant to taking students outside? How can city kids connect with nature? What does it mean to educate the ‘whole’ child?

We filmed children from the wilds of Vermont to Washington, D.C. and sought the voices of many adult experts. Interviews include: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods; Brother Yusuf Burgess who works with inner city teens in Albany, NY; David Sobel, author of Children’s Special Places and Childhood and Nature and leader in the field of place-based education; Yale professor Stephen Kellert, PhD.; Nancy Bell, director of The Conservation Fund in VT/NH; Misha Golfman, Director of Kroka Expeditions in Marlow, NH; Vermont teacher Rob Hanson, who regularly incorporates outdoor nature connection in his sixth grade public school curriculum; Jon Young, California tracker and author of Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, Pearline Tyson of the Parks & People Foundation and the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore, MD; and Amy Beam, founder of Beyond the Walls in Washington, DC.

The film runs 57 minutes.

Read about the filmmakers of Mother Nature’s Child.

Information about funders of Mother Nature’s Child.

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43 Responses to “the film”

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  1. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment on the film, Diane. We certainly DO hope that parents will pay attention to the film’s message by seeking guidance locally and by supporting each other to allow kids out to play more freely. Neighborhood meetings and/or parent groups at schools are a good way to start, bringing in experts to answer questions and offer suggestions. What we wanted to do was highlight the problem, give useful information and let each family, school system or individual teacher run with it!!

  2. Diane Beaman says:

    I loved nature as a kid and still do as an adult. I now enjoy having time with my grandkids to explore outdoors. The film goes a long way to get the message out there. I did note that most of the examples with children were in class or camp settings. Parents and families have primary responsibility for raising children. I wish there had been more of a focus for teaching/guiding parents about this.

  3. Randy Knapp says:

    What an amazing experience I had!! Thank you so very much for your work on this film! Having recently read “Last Child In The Woods”, being a middle school and high school science and technology teacher in a rural NY school, having a background in conservation and fisheries/wildlife management, and having grown up (and live) in the Finger Lakes region of NY…Seeing your film last night at Hobart-William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY was just the push I needed to shift into overdrive again!! Thank you so much!! A question…can you give me some guidance on which dvd license I should consider if i want to show it in my classroom as well as possibly holding public screenings (perhaps with donations at the door for local outdoor programs)?

  4. Mark says:

    Thank you to everyone involved in creating this beautiful and important film! This does a great job promoting my personal and professional mission. Though I now live and work in rural Colorado, it was a treat for me to see the great work in the realm of connecting people–particularly youth–to nature in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. I look forward to sharing this with my friends, colleagues and program participants.

  5. Eva says:

    I saw the film on PBS this week and truly appreciate its message. I especially value the positive views of hunting, which is a powerful and mind-opening experience, helping us to better love and appreciate the lives we take for our sustenance. We are a home-schooling family and we are part of a large home-schooling community here in Ohio. Many of us chose this form of education for the very reason this film exists–to help the next generation grow up in the outdoors. Smarter, healthier, happier. Thank you!

  6. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment, Finn. I remember taking my boys outside when they were restless infants and couldn’t sleep. The night air, dark sky, stars and endless expanse filled them with wonder — and calm. Still do that for myself after a long day of editing!

  7. I must say, it’s sadly not just the children who don’t get outside! I have two baby boys, and already, they are the ones pulling me outside when I might otherwise not be. There are many times during the day when all they need in order to calm down and take a nap is to go for a walk (ride on me) outside to listen to the birds and feel the cool breezes.

    This movie looks very nice.

  8. Jenny Procter says:

    I have just watched the trailer and I am sitting at my desk at school crying. My own children were blessed to live on our family farm and they were outside all year long, free to roam the fields and woods. I have taught at a Waldorf school where recess was abundant and we went out in any kind of weather to climb trees, stomp in the mud, dig in the sand, and play games together…I have also taught in regular public schools where recess is disappearing and children are more aquainted with the world of video games and television than with the world around them. My heart aches for all of us especially the children.

  9. admin says:

    Lynn,
    Many thanks for your comment. As an elementary teacher, your work could not be more important! I can see how disheartening it must be to witness the effects of the media on our children. We didn’t want the film to dwell only on the discouraging facts, hoping that it will find its way to audiences who might receive it as fresh good news, modeling life-giving choices! Best wishes to you in your work.

  10. Lynn Fortaleza says:

    I absolutely love the film! As a 4th grade teacher I see on a day to day basis the physical and mental results the media age is having on my students. It is extremely disheartening. I try to teach my students “life-lessons”. When I do I share what I have learned about exploring the outdoors when I was their age. Thank you for such an empowering film.

  11. admin says:

    Shannon,
    Thanks for sharing your opinion about the hunting scene. It is certainly the most controversial in the film. The family we showed actually eats the meet from the deer they kill. Most of us who eat meat never participate in the slaughter that brings nicely packaged cuts to the grocery store. I recently read THE MINDFUL CARNIVORE, an interesting book by a former vegetarian who, for health reasons, needed to eat meat again and, in order to find the healthiest source, took up hunting. He brings up many points that I had never considered. Recommended!

  12. shannon says:

    About the hunting scene: it is not necessary to eat meat. I don’t think we have to go to issue of killing and eating animals unless we were in primitive wildmen lifestyle, but then there’d be no movie, internet, etc. to talk about it. Our era does not need to eat meat. Promote farming! Why did the movie go from importance of nature to killing! It skipped farming!

  13. shannon says:

    LOVED the film! Is everything I believe in and so well put! Wonderful comments from adults and kids. So happy to see this film. Will spread it around. Thank you for making it. A wonderful inspiration.

  14. admin says:

    So true, Tim. But you’re actually in a great field to help kids connect to nature. Here at UVM, there is a program developing that involve college students mentoring high school and middle school kids to get out and explore natural areas in and around the city and to use technology to share photographs and blog posts about the areas they are studying. It’s a PLACE project entitled Burlington Geographic. Here’s a link in case you’re interested: Richard Louv, in his latest book, THE NATURE PRINCIPLE, talks about how humans need to develop a “hybrid mind” that can navigate well both outdoors and onscreen. Sounds like you have such a mind!

  15. Tim Evans says:

    Thanks for sharing this message. I have been working in information technology for many years but grew up in the wilderness and I too have been feeling that kids are losing that appreciation for the outdoors. If we don’t get the message out there won’t be anyone to protect it.

    GREAT JOB!!!

  16. admin says:

    Thanks for your message, Shavahn, and for your response to the hunting scene. As it turns out, Rachel and her family DO eat the venison from the deer they kill. Although they enjoy their time in the woods and the hunt itself, there is much more going on than seeking a trophy. What impressed us was the dedication, focus, and learning of responsibility as Rachel trained for her first hunt — and most of all, the wonderful connection with her grandfather as he mentored her. She was a determined little girl who will grow up to be a strong woman!

  17. Shavahn Best says:

    Loved the film.

    Really get the connection–luckily, I was outdoors most of my childhood, and still am as much as I can manage. My children are, as well.

    I do not support the hunting propaganda, however. Seeing the trophy has nothing to do with preparing the meat to eat. Is it okay to shoot and kill pandas, elephants, rhinos, wild turkeys, etc., as long as we hang them up in a tree and take pictures of ourselves smiling alongside? Perhaps this could have been presented in a different way–or is it actually meant to portray the ‘sportsmanship?’

  18. Karen Kerr says:

    Great film!
    I am the chairperson of Inner City Outings Miami. Established over 20 years ago, this outreach program of Sierra Club is in about 50 cities around the United States. Our mission is to get inner city kids outdoors. Thank you for helping promote this endeavor.

  19. admin says:

    Amy,
    I agree! Life is so much more joyful and exciting when we are inspired by a sense of wonder and cultivate that in our children. Otherwise, the cynicism so prevalent in our culture eats away the excitement of learning — something we see happening in so many children by the time they hit middle school. Learning through shared exploration of nature establishes a wonderful habit of being curious, observant, and readiness to be amazed. Thank you for your thoughts!

  20. Amy Quinney says:

    Exploring has always been the motivator for learning and expanding horizons. The more we are exposed to nature, the more questions we have, the more interest we have, and the more appreciation we have. Those are the key elements for learning. Drilling students for testing creates anxiety and tension, which promotes resistance and fear. We need to allow children to learn through all of their senses and enjoy their discoveries with their friends and classmates so that they can share their discoveries in discussions. They will grow, not only in knowledge, but, also, in appreciation, excitement, and amazement that will sharpen their senses and create a zest for learning. Children who have opportunities to celebrate their discoveries in nature, together, will not only learn a lot of facts, but, more importantly, they will learn appreciation, awe, and wonder. What a wonderful way to become educated with the guidance of adults who have never lost their own sense of wonder.

  21. Amy Quinney says:

    Exploring has always been the motivator for learning and expanding horizons. The more we are exposed to nature, the more questions we have, the more interest we have, and the more appreciation we have. Those are the key elements for learning. Drilling students for testing creates anxiety and tension, which promotes resistance and fear. We need to allow children to learn through all of their senses and enjoy their discoveries with their friends and classmates so that they can share their discoveries and share in discussions. They will grow, not only in knowledge, but, also, in appreciation, excitement, and amazement that will sharpen their senses and create a zest for learning. Children who have opportunities to celebrate their discoveries in nature, together, will not only learn a lot of facts, but, more importantly, they will learn appreciation, awe, and wonder. What a wonderful way to become educated with the guidance of adults who have never lost their own sense of wonder.

  22. Cyndia says:

    Executive functioning in the brain develops through play, and play outside the doors of the boxes we live in includes a world of wonder; of light and warmth of sun, of earth’s many manifestations, of rivers and rain, and of forces we have yet to discover.

  23. This sounds absolutely wonderful, the creen in Brattleboro will be on our calendar to attend. Kook forward to it!

    we are also helping to get children and adults out into nature :)

  24. Marty says:

    I agree with Paul. I too will soon be 60. In my high school students I see the many problems created by the lack of outdoor play and connection.
    My two sons went camping, hiking, and played outdoors often. They both still enjoy outdoor activities. It is sad to see a world so connected to technology instaed of nature and each other. Maybe some of this information will reach parents before it is too late.

  25. Kathi Thomas says:

    I love this! Looking forward to seeing it. Nature is a deep-seated need, and all children should get to experience it. Learning outside almost always trumps learning in a sterile classroom.

  26. After hearing about the movie, I stopped in at the Petoskey (Michigan) Public Library (not a small facility) and a confused librarian took longer than I expected to hunt down a copy. Which produced no results.

    What is the hold up? Why wasn’t there 5 copies available (or all checked out)? How ridiculous that these are not at local libaries across the country, shame on whoever is road-blocking this basic distribution effort.
    Was there no profit made on this film? No donations to libraries? Bizzare.

  27. Thank you for creating this movie! This message is one of the most important for our future. I am a mother of five and grew up playing in the woods behind my house and camping in Michigan. I have raised my children camping often, they know how to enjoy the wilderness and to entertain themselves w/o electronic devices, that makes me proud. One of my main rules as a Mom is kids & dogs outside as much as possible!!!!! Namaste’

  28. John Sutton says:

    I was 7 years old in 1962, rode my bicycle everyday after school, picked peaches off an old gnarly peach tree at the end of our dirt driveway — best I remember ever eating, raked leaves in the fall, and climbed every tree I could find. When I was 14 a friend and I took a 250 mile bike ride from northwestern Connecticut to Greenport on the tip of Long Island and then down the western shore to Douglaston NY. I’m still very much alive and I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me the freedom to explore my world.

  29. Susan says:

    I am so Excited to see this film at Power Valley Nature Center 6-24-11 I train Early Childhood Educators on the importance of being outside with children and am focusing on the natural approach. It is so amazing to actually see a small child discover a butterfly drinking nectar. They also love to play with Tree Cookies!

  30. Thanks, great clip. Especially liked the remark, “The way to learn about nature is to be in nature”. The presence of enthusiastic engaged adults creates an energetic transmission in students who accompany them. Many of the sixty 5th graders who spent 10 school days outdoors at a school-sponsored “Naturestages” project say that it literally changed the direction of their interests, the way they studied other subjects, and how they spent their (limited) free time. Accompaniment, as Rachel Carson knew, is key.

  31. Thomas says:

    Very nice video and concept!

  32. Desiree says:

    This short movie touched my soul. As a child I grew up experiencing the outside world in various ways. As a mother of older children and a pre-school teacher, I find it difficult getting others to understand how important it is to experience nature and what it has to offer. Hopefully this film will help more people understand all the many benefits of the outdoors.

  33. Paul says:

    As a high school teacher I see so many kids who suffer from a nature deficit. I see so many kids who are overweight, angry, aggressive and unhappy. I am almost 60 now and from the time I was 5 or 6 I spent hours in the woods daily. I still do. My soul is nourished there. Some of my students, who are raised on TV and video games, cannot begin to understand a passage from Walden and that is a shame.

  34. JENNIFER says:

    WOW! I really enjoyed this program. I have two young sons, I live in suburbia, and I do not feel 100% comfortable in nature. This program made me feel motivated to get outside with my family. I see us spending way too much time in front of a screen and I’m ready to change these patterns. I also teach at an elementary school and I’m interested in sharing this video with faculty. How can I purchase this program for sharing? Thanks for a beautiful and motivating program!

  35. Carla Gates says:

    Love this film! I grew up in the 70s and 80s with lots of free play in the woods and brook and pond near our house. It shaped me. I made sure my kids got as much free play outside as possible and I believe their current academic success, initiative, creativity, and interest in protecting the environment stems from this.

  36. This is so Important! The way children live today IS far too sterilized. When I was a new mom I actually felt guilty if every second wasn’t structured because that had been so ingrained into my way of thinking. Thankfully, I got over it quickly! Out of doors is such an important place for children to be. Thank you for making this film and raising awareness.

  37. kate says:

    Hi Camilla, I saw you and your film the other night in waitsfield. in your comments you mentioned a program you took part in at shelburne farms to reconnect with nature. can you tell me the name of this program? i went on their website this week and am not sure exactly which one you spoke of amongst the various programs they offer and i’m interested in investigating it more. thank you very much for your project and your time. best regards.

  38. Carolyn Hopper says:

    Awesome! I will find a way to get a screening somehow somewhere in Bozeman.

  39. Lauren says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE, the trailer and the movie. We saw it (w/kids) up at montshire museum last month. we are trying to show it at our show…and start a monthly, informal family hike.
    Thank you!

  40. Shannon says:

    This is a wonderful clip. Hope to see the whole documentary soon. We at NOAA B-WET hope to able to support projects such as these for many years to come — until learning outdoors is back to the norm for our children.

  41. Heather says:

    Thank you, well done! How do we help others to see that learning happens on its own in the right environment! The answers are not in the books.

  42. Beautiful job. This is a great introduction to the need to connect children and families with the outdoors through active nature-based recreation. What a deal when free play and fun can lead to a healthier, happier and smarter lifestyle while creating the next generation that cares about our natural resources. Kudos.
    Bob Wattendorf, chair GetOutdoorsFlorida.org

  43. Yam Erez says:

    Hurray! Just two things:

    1. I’d replace “outside” with “outdoors”.

    2. It’s not the city kids who suffer nature deficit; they go to the park, where there are trees, squirrels, and other humans. It’s the suburban kids who see neither nature nor people actually earning a livelihood, other than their teachers. They see plastic money coming out and goods coming in, but they see no one actually earning a livelihood. Think about what that means: Entitlement.

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