Feature Article - January 2008
Find a printable version here

A Greener Future

Recreation's Push to Address 'Nature Deficit Disorder'

By Dawn Klingensmith



Sowing the Seeds

Environmental education programs needn't start out on a grand scale. There are simple ways to get started that don't require a substantial investment. For example, Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kan., offers scavenger-hunt and animal-trivia sheets at the ticket booth to enrich kids' learning experience and promote family interaction. Red Butte Garden provides backpacks containing educational materials, suggested activities and craft-making supplies.

"You don't have to develop formal curricula," said Rachel Soash, Sunset Zoo's curator of education. "It's sufficient to have a staff person on hand to talk about animal camouflage and other topics. Every season there's something new to learn, so every season brings new programming opportunities. Nature never gets boring."

Facilities with successful environmental education programs emphasized the importance of hiring full-time staff devoted to the cause. "It's essential in developing quality programming," Newman explained.

Red Butte Garden also relies on its volunteers for chaperoning and other assistance. "All of our programs are completely dependent on their help," Newman said. "When a school bus comes and 65 kids come pouring off, that's more than one or two staffers can manage on their own."