Wales

Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is the subject taking up our time on Country Focus this week.

What's that you say? Well, quite, and as you may have already guessed - it's an American term for what medical experts are claiming is a recognisable condition, namely that people are increasingly becoming divorced from the natural world.

This all started with the publication of a book entitled Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv where the term 'Nature Deficit Disorder' (NDD) was first coined back in 2005.

Since then it's become a convenient label for a number of concerns and symptoms, ranging from behavioural problems, depression and other problems associated with low self-esteem.

And all because we're 'without meaningful contact with the natural world' apparently.

You can't deny that children in particular spend less time outdoors than a generation ago or at least less time unsupervised, mainly owing to concerns about traffic and strangers.

At the same time, there's been a huge increase in organised sport for kids as an attempt (presumably) to redress the balance but whatever happened to scampering - the art of aimless, unstructured play in the great outdoors?

The type of thing that involves climbing trees (think of the health and safety implications), handling creepy crawlies (think of the germs) and getting generally muddy (think of all the extra laundry).

With a little research into the subject, there are stories to be found about doctors writing nature prescriptions, ordering patients to go on long walks, joining green gyms and learning bush craft skills.

Outdoor play has also become a huge part of the school curriculum. When I was in primary school, we didn't even have any grass to play on, just a large concrete yard, but today the Foundation Phase is all about 'bringing the outdoors in'.

Although having said that, a recent provisional report from the Schools Inspectorate, Estyn claimed that not enough was being done to encourage outdoor learning in Wales.

Outdoor play

They also stress that children under five learn better and develop quicker in outdoor lessons and that teachers could do more to create opportunities to get some fresh air into the classrooms (and vice versa).

BBC News: Estyn call for more outdoor learning in Wales.

That certainly isn't the case at Llanrhidian Primary on Gower, which I visited last week as part of my research for the programme.

The school has its very own farm, housed in an internal courtyard within the main building, complete with hay bales, chickens and ducks!

Two pupils in wellies were busy mucking out while I visited and were clearly enjoying themselves.

Head teacher Donna Caswell also showed me the school's orchard, wind turbine and even pathways covered in Penclawdd cockle shells, claiming that the whole project has transformed the life of the school.

She also told me that pupils are less anxious when they're outside and therefore learn better and faster than in an indoor environment. I was even able to buy a box of eggs on my way out, freshly laid that morning.

You can hear more on the debate surrounding 'Nature Deficit Order' on Country Focus on Sunday, 30 October.

Feel free to add your comments about this topic to the blog.

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