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Last Child in the Woods? Not if First Baptist Can Help It.

Written by Tom Bryce

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As we establish and grow the C.R.E.A.T.E. program on the James Island Campus and begin to see students spending more and more time in our “outdoor” classroom, I am encouraged! I am watching a “new flower blossom” in the garden we call First Baptist. That “flower” is the “child” who awakens to the beauty, wonder and amazement of God’s creation...and uses all their senses to make new discoveries and apply new knowledge.

Every two weeks, I’ve observed students, in the C.R.E.A.T.E. Club, pile out of the classrooms and passionately pursue learning in the woods and fields around the upper school building. They are actively building, planting, digging, raking, and bagging. And in the process, they’re learning about native plants, bluebirds, hardwoods, invasive species, old home sites, bats, purple martins, deer, habitat, home range, nesting, predators, prey, mushrooms, species identification keys, muscadines, spiders, cormorants, pollinators, poison ivy, salt-blocks, and red-tailed hawks among many of the other wonders of the woods and waters.

They’re taking what’s been discussed in the classroom and read in the text books, and seeing it first- hand outdoors and applying their knowledge of biology, ecology, ornithology, botany, and horticulture. They’re getting their hands dirty, figuratively and literally. And no sooner than we gather with a prayer and pursue our various projects, it seems but just a few minutes before the bell rings and back into the building they go. Time passes quickly when you’re having fun! And I would say that at day’s end when they’re homeward bound, they’ll carry with them indelible memories of sights, sounds, and smells...and a more inquisitive spirit with a passion to do it again in two weeks!

There’s a recent “national best seller” entitled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. This book is the recipient of the Audubon Medal and warns of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional costs to children so “plugged into electronic diversions” that they’ve lost their “connection to the natural world.” Louv expounds upon the immeasurable benefits of a young person’s exposure to nature. He states, “The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.”

I grew up in “cities” up and down the eastern seaboard, but I had a father who took me fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and canoeing. He taught me to appreciate God’s creation and to be a good steward of the resource. I learned what was meant by “land ethic”, “pack out what you haul in”, leave it better than you found it”, “eat what you catch, throwback what you don’t so others can enjoy”, “douse, mix, douse, stir, feel, douse...and check it again”. (Thank you Smokey!) My love of the outdoors grew and soon what started as a childhood fancy, grew into a desire for knowledge, an unquenchable curiosity of all things alive, and then into a fun, exciting, and fulfilling profession. And now my passion is to share with young people a faith in God who created this amazing world, the good news of a Savior who gives grace and life to enjoy it, and my love of “all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”

Richard Louv opens his book with the following statement that I will leave with you: “For children, nature comes in many forms. A newborn calf; a pet that lives and dies; a

worn path through the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles; a damp, mysterious edge of a vacant lot – whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighborhood. It serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasies. Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion. Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.”


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