The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another.
— Thomas Merton
This session focuses on the interdependent web of life and introduces the intangible gift of protection — protection of the environment and all life that shares it. Learning to respect and appreciate the Earth, our home, is one of the cornerstones of our faith.
Children today are much more involved with indoor activities — often media, such as computers, video games and television — than adults were at their age. Many of our children lack the interaction with the outdoors that would help them develop a healthy relationship with nature. In this session, you will help children understand the importance of their connection to the Earth with activities that encourage interaction with nature regardless of the setting of your congregation.
In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv argues that children who are not exposed to the natural world are at a disadvantage. Louv calls this disadvantage "nature deficit disorder." He writes, "A growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature in positive ways." Louv asserts that the environmental advocates of today are the children who spent time in nature years ago. He suggests that children need to go outdoors and experience the natural world in order to develop intellectual, spiritual and emotional understanding of the harm pollution and littering cause to the environment.
This session affirms Louv's ideas and helps address "nature deficit disorder." It includes a walk outdoors (Activity 4). If the group is large, engage additional adults in the activity. Have parents sign permission slips distributed well in advance. Make sure children have appropriate outerwear.
Beyond the session, the congregation can be a community that actively elevates the spiritual importance of spending time in nature. In one activity, the children create an "Energy Inventory" of either their congregation or home (Faith in Action). The Taking It Home section suggests ways for parents to offer their children unstructured, outdoor play time and suggests they make a commitment to doing so.
This session will:
- Help participants in understand the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle, the interdependent web of life, in the context of the natural world around us
- Develop participants' sense of responsibility to protect our and care for the natural environment
- Help participants develop a spiritual connection to nature.
- Learn how to take care of the Earth on a daily basis
- Spend time in mindfully in nature
- Understand "protection" as an intangible gift they can give through their attitudes and actions on behalf of the Earth.