With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing and video games absorbing more and more of our children’s afterschool hours, it is high time that kids got off the computer and back in touch with nature. And No Child Left Online, a pilot program of Flint Local 432 and Red Ink Flint, aims to do just that. According to Red Ink Manager Joel Rash, the purpose of NCLOL is to help young adults get healthier by turning off their screens and getting outside for physical activity. “My generation grew up understanding the joy of nature,” says Joel. “Today, it seems like younger people have fewer opportunities to connect with the outdoors.”
The idea for NCLOL came to Joel after he read a book titled Last Child in the Woods by Child Advocacy Expert Richard Louv. The book directly links the lack of nature in children’s lives to health issues such as obesity, attention disorders and depression. The author refers to this as Nature Deficit Disorder. In his book, he offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond – and many are right in our own backyard. “Youth are losing their connection with the outdoors at an alarming rate,” says Joel. “School field trips are no longer funded, membership in scouting organizations has shriveled, green space is disappearing, and kids spend more and more time at home in front of the television, on-line, or with console games.”
NCLOL proposes to get kids to unplug from their solitary indoor lives and participate in activities that are social, active, and fun. With the help of a mini grant, NCLOL has provided several outside activities over the past months to youth in the area at no cost! So far, local youths have played disc golf, travelled to For-Mar Nature Area for a nature walk, and biked down the Flint River trails. On Saturday, September 27, a picture-perfect fall day, the group paddled kayaks and canoes down the Flint River. Joel hopes the program will continue, and is constantly seeking new activities to engage kids. Knowing that some are not as athletic as others puts him in mind to try activities like bowling and camping, he reports. In essence, Joel just wants to see children enjoying nature with others. “Spending time outdoors is an essential part of childhood,” he says.
PHOTOS BY AUTUMN D. RUMMEL
Are you interested in purchasing photos from this story? Go HERE and select the “No Child Left Online” category.