by Nikki Julien, www.NaturePlayLearning.com
Richard Louv was the keynote speaker for the Desert Botanical Garden’s Annual Member’s Meeting where he would speak on the purpose of the Children’s Garden, the design of which being unveiled that evening. As I prepared to head out to the meeting, Facebook’s Throwback Thursday reminded me that I had heard him speak exactly a year ago at the Children and Nature Network Conference. unlike most of the celebrities I have seen in concert, Louv didn’t recycle any of his material.
This man has story after story that he has experienced or heard and collected about the power and important of nature in children’s lives. He started by telling a humble story of how even after he had moved to San Diego, he hadn’t connected with the place. When he got out in nature, he finally connected to the area. He said, “I got connected to the place by connecting with the nature of the place.” He stressed the importance of focusing on what was local. “If you can name it, you can brand it,” he said. This brand would be the bridge to helping people connect with the place. He really liked the name, Sonoran Desert.
Louv continued to bring things back to children and nature—his trademark topic. Children needed opportunity to connect to nature if we want to foster a relationship to nature and the want within them to protect and care for it. “A sense of wonder if the source of spiritual life. We are shutting that window for kids, countless kids.” He predicted that the children’s garden at Desert Botanical would allow children the much needed connection to nature. He urged that natural history become as important as American history in children’s learning—it used to be.
Louv referenced the idea of “solistalgia” a word created by Glen Albrecht of Australia, which is “the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment.” But for children growing up with what Louv called, Nature Deficient Disorder, there is no connection in the first place.
But he did not leave on an unhappy note. He finished with the story of his experience of taking incarcerated youth of San Diego into the mountain for a camping trip and finding them at first distrustful and even fearful of nature. But after a short time, the fears dissipated and these boys who had been in gangs became young again, lost their anger and fear, and had fun playing in the stream amid the rocks and trees. He made nature connection sound so simple. And really it is.
To learn more about Richard Louv’s work go to his website: http://richardlouv.com/
To learn more about connecting children to nature, visit the Children and Nature Network, which Richard Louv founded. Here is their website: http://www.childrenandnature.org/
The Desert Botanical Garden’s Burgur Children’s Garden was designed by the Didier Design Group out of Fort Collins, Colorado. The firm has done several other children’s gardens including Penn State and Wichita along with the Sensory Garden at the Denver Botanic Garden. Their philosophy is “rooted in the exchange between place and making: revealing or enhancing the essence of place through the act of making” to create a sense of place (their website ).
Their design includes an area for children to pick wildflowers along with planting in raised bed gardens. There will be a replica of Barnes Butte, positioned almost at the foot of Barnes Butte for a layered effect, that will offer tunneling and climbing as the children go inside a giant spiraling canyon. A raised bed garden area will have traditional gardens along with an opportunity for children to plant too. The accompanying building will offer an indoor/outdoor creative space for two-dimensional and three-dimensional creativity. It will also be used for seasonal programming for children and special events. A somewhat traditional play area, called the Cactus Village, will be included and feature a desert theme of oversized cactus standing or fallen so children can pretend to be the small animals that use the cactus for homes.
What made me very excited was an arroyo which looked like it will be a wild space for children to play in the water and climb river boulders amid the desert wash plants. The Garden prided itself on doing the imagination during the pre-design phase by bringing in experts in child development and play along with focus groups of the target audience. The play area is sure to please the children who visit Desert Botanical Garden.
To learn more about the Desert Botanical Garden, go to their website: https://www.dbg.org/
To see what Nikki and NaturePlayLearning is up to, visit me at my website: http://www.natureplaylearning.com/