Local PTAs Battle Nature-Deficit Disorder

Programs help children discover the outdoors

Recent studies have shown that American kids are spending less and less time outdoors, playing in nature, and having the same kind of open, exploratory childhood than that of their parents and grandparents. This unfortunate phenomenon, which carries serious implications for children’s mental and physical development and health, has been coined by author Richard Louv in his watershed book, Last Child in the Woods, as “nature-deficit disorder.”

Philipstown, however, is fortunate in having parents, teachers, school administrators, and organizations aware of this alarming trend and committed to offering a variety of nature-based programming and activities for all ages.

Eco programs encourage children to play and learn in the outdoors. File photo

Eco-kids programs encourage children to play and learn in the outdoors.
File photo

Constitution Marsh Audubon and the Hudson Highlands Land Trust are two well-known local centers of environmental education but Philipstown’s PTA groups are also an important part of the mix.

A number of opportunities are available for area students to get outside in the company of knowledgeable adults. One such choice is called “The Explorer’s Club,” offered by local environmental educator Pete Salmansohn.

“It’s a wonderful way for kids to build forts, search for frogs and salamanders, climb trees and just be free and happy in these great woods of ours,” Salmansohn said. Salmansohn’s program, at both schools, is aimed mainly at students in grades three and up, but he is taking second graders whose parent comes along as a chaperone.

At Haldane, educator Lyn Berkley is offering her own version for younger children which she’s calling “Eco-kids,” for children in grades one and two, with an emphasis on nature games. Additionally, parents Kory Riesterer, Beth Sigler, and Melissa Angier have been organizing parents to work at Haldane’s ever-expanding vegetable and flower garden, and with teachers to organize garden lessons.

At Garrison, Trisha Mulligan and Megan VanEvera are creating their own “Eco-kids” after-school program, focusing on science and art activities in the school’s bountiful wildlife garden.

Visit gufspta.org and haldanepta.org.

At Haldane, Carina Frantz is organizing the PTA after-school courses, and at Garrison, Julia Wynn is doing the same. Each program runs for a set period of weeks and there is a small cost involved.

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