The Nature Principal

Marty Fortin
Jan 29, 2019

On Saturday January 26th, I attended an event presented by the Pacific Education Institute. The program was the author Richard Louv, who wrote the book Last Child in the Woods, plus nine others. I even bought his newest book Vitamin N.

This was the third time I had heard him, and his stories are still as interesting as ever. He did not talk about principals this time, but I thought about my 2011 time with him and it reminded me of my article in the Principal News that fall. I think it is worth republishing here on the blog.



The Nature Principal (October 2011)
By Martin E. Fortin, Jr., AWSP Director of Outdoor Learning Centers

Last spring, I attended a lecture in Seattle by Richard Louv, who wrote the highly popular book entitled Last Child in the Woods. In the book, he coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder. His presentation was centered on his newest book inspired by a fan who reminded him that adults have the same disorder. He titled his book The Nature Principle where he outlines a course of action for human restoration by way of the natural world.

He reports on landmark research, and adds personal stories, to illustrate his model of basic actions to help us all enhance our mental and physical capacities by reconnecting with the natural world. He really got my attention when he stated that the biggest hindrance to getting kids outdoors was the school principal. His notion was that administrators believe that education is too important to be out of the classroom.

I do not remember much of what he said after that, instead, I was considering his statement and asking, “Could it be true?” In the last 20 years, we have seen a slow decline in the number of schools visiting our own outdoor learning facilities. Our annual attendance is now at two-thirds of what we experienced in the mid 1990’s. What are the forces that altered the view that the residential outdoor camp was a peak experience necessary for all elementary students? Certainly, the research shows that this experience enhances student learning. However, as fast as the body of supporting research has grown, the available money for outdoor programs has declined even faster.

Perhaps we can look for a way that pre kindergarten children to high school seniors can experience the benefits of nature by first looking out the schoolhouse doors to the surrounding campus. A long bus ride into the woods is not the only way to experience nature. The schoolyard has a lot to offer. Louv’s newest initiative is The Children and Nature Network. It has many ideas of how we can help our children thrive in the out-of-doors. 

I am proud to be a part of a statewide association that values the outdoor experience. Whether it is an annual trip for a residential science camp, or the day-to-day use of the local school environment, AWSP has served as a national leader in its commitment to support principals in the education of all students. In Washington, we have the research, the support framework, and the natural settings for our members to all become a Nature Principal.




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