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The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places

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In this unique collaboration, naturalists Gary Nabhan and Stephen Trimble investigate how children come to care deeply about the natural world. They ask searching questions about what may happen to children denied exposure to wild places - a reality for more children today than at any time in human history. The authors remember pivotal events in their own childhood that led each to a life-long relationship with the land: Nabhan's wanderings in the wasteland of steel mills and power plants of Gary, Indiana, and in...
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Overview

In this unique collaboration, naturalists Gary Nabhan and Stephen Trimble investigate how children come to care deeply about the natural world. They ask searching questions about what may happen to children denied exposure to wild places - a reality for more children today than at any time in human history. The authors remember pivotal events in their own childhood that led each to a life-long relationship with the land: Nabhan's wanderings in the wasteland of steel mills and power plants of Gary, Indiana, and in the Indiana Dunes; Trimble's travels in the West with a geologist father. They tell stories of children learning about wild places and creatures in settings ranging from cities and suburbs to isolated Nevada sheep ranches to Native American communities in the Southwest and Mexico. The Geography of Childhood draws insights from fields as various as evolutionary biology, child psychology, education, and ethnography. The book urges adults to rethink our children's contact with nature. Small children have less need for large-scale wilderness than for a garden, gully, or field to create a crucial tie to the natural world. Nabhan suggests that traditional wilderness-oriented rites of passage may help cure the alienation of adolescence: "Those who as adolescents fail to pass through such rites remain in an arrested state of immaturity for the remainder of their lives." Trimble's fatherhood leads him to question how we grant different freedoms to girls and boys in their exploration of nature - and how this bias powerfully affects adult lives. Both authors return to their experiences with indigenous peoples to show how nature is taught and wilderness understood in cultures historically grounded outside of America's cities and suburbs. The Geography of Childhood makes clear how human growth remains rooted, as it always has, both in childhood and in wild landscapes. It is an essential book for all parents and teachers who wonder what our children may miss if they
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
More than half of American children get their environmental information from the media, according to the authors, who find this a disturbing trend. In alternating essays, conservation biologist Nabham ( Gathering the Desert ) and Trimble ( Great Sand Dunes ) examine the needs of children to experience nature firsthand. Each author draws on his childhood experiences: Nabham's among the steel mills and sand dunes of Gary, Ind., and Trimble's travels in the West with his geologist father. They describe how their own children react to the world of nature and look at Southwest Indian cultures that are closely tied to nature. Trimble speaks to three-generations of a ranch family in Nevada; Nabham visits an extended family on a Mexican ranch. Observing social activities on school playgrounds, Trimble discovers more interaction between the sexes on grassy areas than on bare asphalt. This thoughtful presentation, testifying to children's need for direct contact with nature, has value for parents and those who work with children. Photos. (Apr.)
Denise Perry Donavin
Two fathers, both seasoned naturalists, earnestly convey their love of the land and their experiences imparting that love to their young children. They rue the fact so many children lack such opportunities. "When we don't grow up meeting lizards, snakes, and frogs, we have no way to recognize their vitality and dignity, nor the continuity between them and us." Often, the naivete of these authors is as moving as their paternal reflections. Theirs is definitely not another how-to-collect-leaves-with-your-toddler book, and it raises questions that are not easily answered. With all their seriousness, however, Nabhan and Trimble still offer many delightful scenes of enjoying the wilderness with their families.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807085240
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Series: Concord Library Ser.
  • Pages: 216

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
A Child's Sense of Wildness 1
The Scripture of Maps, the Names of Trees: A Child's Landscape 15
Going Truant: The Initiation of Young Naturalists 33
A Land of One's Own: Gender and Landscape 53
Children in Touch, Creatures in Story 77
A Wilderness, with Cows: Working with Landscape 109
Learning Herps 133
Sing Me Down the Mountain: A Father's Landscape 157
Notes 173
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