by Jeff Hoagland

Never have kids been more disconnected from their local environment. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s recent report "Connecting Today’s Kids With Nature" we are now seeing the "first American generation to grow up effectively isolated from nature."

In "Last Child in the Woods," Richard Louv enumerates some of the reasons behind and costs associated with this disconnection. For example, instead of hours of free play outdoors in the "wild" edges of our neighborhoods, the average child is engaged with screens at home and at school for 4 hours per day, according to research by the American Academy and Pediatrics.

Research has confirmed what we once considered intuitive for children, that time spent outdoors in nature enhances creativity and problem solving; improves self esteem and self control; improves health, reduces stress and improves cognitive ability.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? This summer, why not give nature camp a try.

For more than 30 years the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s Nature & Environmental Summer Day Camp in Hopewell has offered the fun and fellowship of summer camp, the magic and inspiration of nature, and the timeless value of education about our environment.

At the Watershed Association’s 860-acre Watershed Reserve, children entering grades one through nine can enjoy a variety of environmentally themed weeklong camp sessions, which run from June 28 through August 19. Whether it’s learning about animals and wildlife, water, insects or even outdoor skills, there’s something to spark the inner explorer in every child.

Want to learn more? Stop by one of two Summer Camp Open Houses at the Watershed Association’s Buttinger Nature Center (31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington) on Saturday March 19 and Saturday May 21, 1 to 4 p.m. Meet the Camp Director, check out the Buttinger Nature Center, explore the Watershed Reserve’s trails, fields and forest, and register on-site.

Don’t miss out on Early Bird Registration! Sign up before April 1 and receive a free gift for each child registered. Sibling and multi-week discounts also available. To download a Summer Camp Brochure & Registration Form visit http://www.thewatershed.org/education/summer-camp/.

See you this summer!

Jeff Hoagland has directed the Education Program at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association since 1984. An environmental educator and teacher-naturalist, Jeff founded the Buttinger Nature Center in 1989 and provides workshops for classroom teachers interested in incorporating the environment into their classroom.

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is central New Jersey’s first environmental organization, protecting clean water and the environment since 1949 through science, education, conservation and advocacy. The Watershed Association protects the 265-square-mile area drained by the Stony Brook and Millstone River and serves more than 10,000 children and adults each year through nearly 400 education programs. Visit: www.thewatershed.org.

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