The organization Nature Bridge has been working for over 30 years to get these kids out into the natural world. They have an innovative nature-based curriculum that teaches science hands on, where the wild things are. Kids go on either a weekend or full-week camping expedition and are instructed on everything form biology, geology and climate to creative arts and writing.
This week I was invited to a Nature Bridge fund-raiser to benefit the expansion of their new Santa Monica campus. The organization now has three campuses in California and one in Washington state, and the new campus will serve the estimated 5 million school kids living in the Los Angeles area.
LA needs a program like this badly. Though Los Angeles is known for its great weather, it has next to no parks, and its child population suffers more than most from "Nature Deficit Disorder."
NDD (a term coined by author Richard Louv in his ground-breaking book, Last Child in the Woods) is linked to poor scholastic performance, juvenile delinquency and worse, as evidenced by southern California's overflowing juvenile detention centers and abysmally low test scores. In 2007, less than a quarter (23 percent!) of all LA area school kids met the state's minimum standard in science education.
Nature Bridge is hoping to change that. The new director of the Santa Monica campus, Henry Ortiz, told a story about the impact this program can have.
Recently he ran into a big burly guy who walked up to him and thanked him for leading his class on a nature outing to the Sierras. He said, "That was the only thing I remembered from middle school."
Nature Bridge is currently running an online fund-raiser, so if you are moved to contribute it could make a big difference in a kid's life.