Why Outdoor Education?

HMI’s slogan, “healthy land, sustainable future,” reflects our philosophy of educating land stewards about smart land use, while assisting them to enhance the land’s natural productivity.  HMI’s Kids On the Land (KOL) program reflects that belief and also the idea that a healthy appreciation for nature education can be learned at a young age.  Recent books and articles support this idea of reconnecting kids to the land. 

Robert Cook of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department stated, “A good dose of the outdoors may prove to be a powerful antidote for many of the things that ail kids today!”

The National Football League even has commercials encouraging kids to get outside.

Richard Louv, in his book, Last Child Left In the Woods, and on his website  says children no longer have places to play.  He reminds us to think about our relationship with nature and how it was formed. Those of us who grew up in the 40’s & 50’s can do that, but for many today sending kids outside to play is increasingly difficult. Computers, television, and video games compete for their time. Also our fears of traffic, strangers, and both parents working keep children indoors or in organized activities. Schools have become more test-oriented and even recess is being cut out of daily school schedules. What we have been left with are eight year old kids who are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees in their neighborhood.  Finally, he challenges those in agriculture to use your farms or ranches as the new school yards.

The Oxford Junior Dictionary’s newest edition no longer defines more than 30 nature words, including “dandelion,” “otter,” “acorn” and “beaver.” In their place, a child will now find definitions for such terms as “MP3 player,” “blog” and “cut and paste.” “Making room in the junior dictionary for a new lexicon of technology and communications may be a good thing for children, provided they are not also denied definitions as basic as that of the flower growing on their own lawn,” says Kevin Coyle, NWF vice president for education and training.

Do you remember the first time your curiosity was stirred by nature?  Rachel Carson is quoted in the book, The Earth Speaks, that every child needs the companionship of one adult who can introduce them to nature, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.

HMI’s KOL program is now scheduling its 2012 activities and we will be connecting over 300 children to nature and the land where they live.  There is a guide for developing your own program offered as a free download on the HMI website. Check it out and see if you want to be the adult who introduced a child to the wonders of nature or used his farm/ranch as the next school yard.


  1. Katherine Dickson says:

    I believe that it is imperative to bring the connection that Mrs. Maddox talks about to our young generation.
    This program is well thought out and developed. Gratefully, I have seen this program in action thru the years. The comments from the children and their teachers are “wow”. Something like, “I didn’t know how alive everything is.”
    May this program continue to bring the connection between children and the earth. We will all be better for it.

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