Challenge 1: Lack of Time Spent Outdoors in Nature
Today, few children spend time experiencing Nature. So few know the benefit of outdoor recreation, education, and contemplation. Founder and former Director of the Children and Nature Network (C&NN), Richard Louv coined the phrase nature-deficit disorder to describe the negative effects of reduced outdoor time on children’s development.
Study results published on the C&NN website show that reduced outdoor time can have serious negative impact on children’s physical health and intellectual development. Other educators, psychologists and authors, as well as The National Environmental Education Foundation–through its Children and Nature Initiative–have documented how being active in Nature makes kids healthier and more open to learning and processing new ideas.
Challenge 2: Overdevelopment and Lack of Biodiversity
Over the past 60+ years, man-made changes to the American landscape have significantly compromised the biodiversity essential to support life. Only 5% of landscaped areas in the United States remain as undeveloped native plants.
Over 80% of landscaped area is resource-intensive lawn.
In this program, we emphasize the need to increase wildlife habitat by planting native species that provide food, safety and habitat for native flora and fauna.
“Gardening for Life,” and the blockbuster book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. (Expanded and updated ed., Timber Press, 2009), are by Douglas W. Tallamy. The author compellingly describes the serious situation that humans face because of lack of biodiversity. He offers homeowners ways to change their focus from resource-intensive green lawns to native plants, making a strong case for planting hardy, drought-tolerant native plants that support our native wildlife, and thus biodiversity. Dr. Tallamy is Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware.
Challenge 3: Toxic Chemicals and Public Safety
Physician Diane Lewis is the founder of the Great Healthy Yard Project. Her article, “Toxic Brew in Our Backyards,” (Sunday Review Opinion, New York Times, May 10, 2014) warns homeowners of the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, explaining that these toxic chemicals are unnecessary and harmful to the agricultural and landscaping workers who apply them, to homeowners and their pets, and to the insects and birds that visit the yards.
Challenge 4: Climate Change
Research shows that frightening children with dire predictions does not engender change in their behavior or expectations. Instead, children need to feel close to nature—to develop a “compassionate concern for our natural world.” To counter children feeling separated from nature, MS4B programs bring children nose-to-nose with toads, lady bugs, grasshoppers, earthworms, butterflies, and all sorts of fascinating creatures. (Jill Suttie, “How to Raise an Environmentalist.” YES Magazine, posted September 24, 2016.)
Challenge 5: Invasive Species
Invasive Plants Destroy Balance In The Food Chain
Native insects can’t thrive on invasives which aggressively ravage areas of forest, fields, and other open spaces, making it difficult for native insects and plants to survive.
Examples of nasty invasives in New England are black swallowwort, Japanese knotweed, Oriental bittersweet, Multiflora rose, among hundreds of others.
Students in the YEEP Program spend many hours removing these plants. At Kennard Park in Newton, the students pulled out bittersweet roots that were as thick as a wrist and 22-ft. long. This shows that removing just the visible parts of the plants is only the first step in destroying it.