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2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium-Canopy Connections

Presentation Title: “Countering Nature Deficit Disorder in Eugene Middle Schoolers: Sense of Place at HJ Andrews Old-Growth Forest”
Presenters: Sarah Hovet Annalise Helm, Chaney Hart, Danielle Stein, Elizabeth Yurkov, Evan King, Jordan Morales, Sara Fatimah

Children, especially those living in urbanized areas, are spending less time in nature than previous generations resulting in what Richard Louv calls nature deficit disorder, which contributes to higher levels of obesity, ADHD, and behavioral problems in school. They also suggest contact with natural spaces has a restorative effect on attention. As a service-learning project of the Environmental Leadership Program, the Canopy Connections team partnered with HJ Andrews Experimental Forest (HJA) and the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute to facilitate nine day-long field trips at HJA to connect middle schoolers with nature. We worked with 120 students from local middle schools, including underserved Fern Ridge, Prairie Mountain, and Blue River, as well as Ridgeline. We sought to strengthen the bonds between students and nature and strength their sense of place, and introduce students to the unique qualities of old-growth forests and the Pacific Northwest. We developed and implemented lessons about biodiversity, soil composition, and water and topography, as well as climbed 90 feet into a Douglas fir to connect with the canopy. During winter, we learned about Coyote mentoring, an approach to environmental education that focuses on awakening children’s sensory awareness. We then integrated many of their activities and approaches into our field trip, including sit-spotting and journaling. We hope to create an ecologically enlightened generation of Willamette Valley residents who, through their reconnection with nature, will act to positively change the environment.