My fondest memories of childhood include exploring the "wild" areas in my neighborhood. When I was in the third grade we moved into a new subdivision on the edge of some undeveloped areas. You wouldn't think that anyone could find nature in an industrial city like Hammond, Indiana -- but we did!
We found fields where the weeds were head high and pretended we were in the Wild West or on another planet. We searched for interesting insects. We tried to grow frogs from tadpoles. We built forts out of old cardboard from tv sets or refrigerators. We even nailed some planks on the trunk of an apple tree so we could "climb" it, then brought books home from the local library to read among its branches. (We got caught on that one and had to dismantle our creation).
Richard Louv makes the point that few children are growing up with nature these days. Population is centered in urban areas. Kids' lives are pretty structured -- even "play time" is organized into team sports. When they do have free time, they spend hours absorbed in television, video games, or the Internet. Due to concerns about safety, children aren't allowed to "run free" nor are most playgrounds designed to encourage any contact with nature. As a result, kids are losing their sense of wonder.
Citing a wide range of research, Louv argues that this nature deficit is bad for children and may even contribute to behavioral problems. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Children & Nature Network, which was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working to reconnect children with nature. Cities throughout the U.S. have embraced this concept.