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Children and nature is focus of weekend retreat at W.Va. center

September 07, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Hundreds of people, including educators and federal officials, are expected to come together this weekend near Shepherdstown to examine how children are becoming more detached from nature and how it might affect the environment in coming years.

Over the past couple of decades, children have become less interested in the outdoors as they spend increasing amounts of time engaged in electronic media, said Steve Chase, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center.

Not only is there a concern that the trend might translate into less interest in environmental protection, but it could pose problems for children, like increasing obesity, Chase said.

The issues will be explored at the National Conservation Training Center on Friday and Saturday when "A National Dialogue on Children and Nature" will get under way at the center north of Shepherdstown on Shepherd Grade Road, Chase said.

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The increasing separation between children and nature was explored in the book "Last Child in the Woods. Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder," written by Richard Louv, Chase said.

Louv is expected to speak Friday morning during the conference, Chase said.

Also participating in the conference will be Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne; Michael Suk, a former White House fellow who has been interested in the issue; David Kahn, executive director of the North American Montessori Teachers' Association; and about a dozen middle school children from the Eastern Panhandle, Chase said.

The children will give input from their perspective, Chase said.

About 340 people are expected to attend the conference, Chase said.

"The reaction to this has been huge. It's definitely a hot topic right now," Chase said.

Those attending are expected to listen to the issues and break into smaller groups to identify solutions, Chase said.

Kempthorne is expected to speak at 8:05 a.m. Friday, Chase said.

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