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Book Review: How To Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson

Review: How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott D> Sampson at www.LisaNalbone.comI just finished reading How to Raise a Wild Child, The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature by Scott D. Sampson. It’s a comprehensive book detailing research about why getting out in nature is so important for us, our kids and our earth.

Reading the book brought back memories of the  activities I used to do with kids when I was working with environmental education programs, that I brought to my classroom teaching, and things we did as a family since we loved to be out in nature.

Sampson does a thorough (327 pages) job of detailing the science behind why we need to immerse ourselves in nature and the best ways to instill a love of nature in our children.

From the inside flap book description:

The average North American child currently spends about seven hours a day staring at screens, and mere minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors, a dramatic transformation within the past generation. Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth. Regular exposure to nature can help relieve stress, depression, and attention deficits. It can reduce bullying, combat obesity, and boost academic scores. Most critical of all, abundant time in natural settings seems to yield long-term benefits in kids’ cognitive, emotional, and social development.

To date, no book has offered teachers, parents, and other caregivers the necessary tools to engender a meaningful, lasting connection between children and the natural world. How to Raise a Wild Child is a timely and engaging antidote, showing how kids’ connection to nature changes as they mature, and empowering grown-ups to be strong mentors.
Distilling the latest research in multiple disciplines, Sampson reveals how adults can help kids fall in love with nature—enlisting technology as an ally, taking advantage of urban nature, and instilling a deep sense of place along the way.

It is a dense book with many great examples of activities to do with children geared for their developmental stage. It also explains and gives tips for how to be a great nature mentor;how to not over focus on facts, how to encourage questioning and connection  with the big ideas of how our natural world operates in ways that don’t become lectures, and suggestions for how to  develop habits of exploring nature and extend the learning in ways that will work for your family culture.

What are the secrets for raising a wild child?

Spread throughout the book are what he terms 10 secrets for raising a wild child. 

Here are his first three secrets which coincide with my values about learning that could be applied to many topics.

  1. A deep connection with nature doesn’t arise through only periodic trips to national parks or other wilderness. While such trips can leave deep impressions, even more important are abundant experiences in wild or semi-wild places, typically close to home.

  2. Children will tend to value what you value so start noticing nature yourself taking a few minutes each day to become more aware of the other than human world around you.

  3. Pay close attention to the child’s interaction with nature and follow their lead. Tailoring experiences and questions to kid’s specific interests is the best path for inspiring passion for the natural world.

One of the benefits of the books is the detailed advice on how to be a great nature mentor.

(from pages 89-90)

“Effective mentors are almost invisible. They deepen connection and learning in their mentees wihtout even appearing to be teachers. They start by using the longings of youngsters as both bait and distraction.  For young kids those longings likely revolved around free play.  For kids in middle childhood, passions might be directed toward playing a game or showing competency of some sort, so you might ask them to head out to gather berries or apples.  For teens, longings revolve more around pushing personal limits in the company of peers. As a mentor your role might be to organize an outing that meets these goals – perhaps ziplining or backpacking.

ScottDSampson quote

When referring to the daily habits of using the activities he terms wanders and sit spots

“Coyote mentors build excitement by modeling the right attitude and engaging in the same activities. Afterward they exchange stories and ask questions that build confidence and probe the edges of understanding. Nature mentors are also active unconditional listeners, watching body language and facial expressions to determine where interests lie, and when to insert a provocative factoid or another confidence boosting question.”

These are good pointers for mentoring learners in many situations.

The book is full of useful actionable advice, though a bit unwieldy to carry along if these kinds of activities and mentoring are unfamiliar for you. I was hoping to find a section of his website that had some useful downloads as cheat sheets to more easily be carted along and referred to. ( I am thinking of the resources that the Heath Brothers provide for Decisive or some of Gretchen Rubin’s downloads for the Happiness Project.)

The book is well worth a read. The most important action is to round up your kiddos and go outside to experience and fall in love with nature each and everyday.

You can see the book trailer here:

Have you read this book?  What did you think? How do you enjoy nature with your family?

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