Whip out your maps and summer schedules; there are only four weeks left to make your plans for the Great American Backyard Campout! Okay, okay — it might seem like the folks in charge of the National Wildlife Federation, who came up with the faux-liday three years ago, are aiming low. But the thinking goes: If you can get kids to connect with the nature right under their noses, it will stimulate their interest in what lies beyond the neighborhood.
It’s part of a larger effort on the part of conservation and recreation groups to reverse the three-generation trend of nature-deficit disorder alarmingly identified in Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv wove together various threads of study to make a succinct argument about the connection between children’s exposure to nature and their physical and emotional well-being.
Parents who’d love to see their kids put down the joysticks and pick up the walking sticks — and consequently be happier, healthier little people — may want to start small and work their way up. The Great American Backyard Campout suggests starting with a pop-up tent on the lawn, then expanding to local parks, nearby campgrounds and so on. If your family is ready for the great wide open, see Desert Companion’s May feature, “Morning glories,” which lists our favorite spots in the West for all sorts of camping, from primitive to luxury.
The Great American Backyard Campout is Saturday, June 28. The National Wildlife Federation is hoping for 200,000 Americans for this year’s event, and its board has pledged to donate $2 toward conservation work for every person who participates, up to $400,000. See the event website for help with packing lists, recipes, wildlife guides and outdoors activities.