Carson, Rachel. The Sense of Wonder (Harper and Row, New York, 1965—newer editions also available). An easy, eloquent and mandatory read for anyone seeking to go outdoors with children and/or renew their own appreciation for the wonders of nature. Carson had intended for this essay to be expanded into a book but she died before realizing that goal. It was printed post-humously and – while less well known than Silent Spring – remains one of Carson’s most profound contributions to the environmental movement.
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (Updated and Expanded Edition). Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, 2008.
This book offers sobering portrait of how the landscape of childhood has changed, describing the many forces that now keep children indoors. The 2008 edition has suggested actions for change, a much-needed addition.
Cornell, Joseph. Sharing Nature with Children (20th Anniversary Edition). Dawn Publications, Nevada City, CA, 1998. This compilation of outdoor activities and games for elementary-school children can be used by teachers, camp counselors, parents or anyone else who takes kids outdoors.
Nabhan, Gary Paul and Stephen Trimble. The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. An eloquent series of essays by two ecological writers about their own childhoods outdoors and their efforts as parents to foster experiences of wildness in their kids.
Orion Society’s Nature Literacy Series:
- Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education, by David Sobel
- Bringing the World Alive: A Bibliography of Nature Stories for Children
- Stories in the Land: A Place-based Environmental Education Anthology
- Into the Field: A Guide to Locally Focused Teaching
All four of these small booklets have valuable resource information for parents and educators interested in fostering place-based, experiential learning. The publisher has an interesting magazine, Orion with some past articles posted online (by topic).
Healthy Children, Healthy Planet course curriculum developed by the Northwest Earth Institute. This course reader has essays and excerpts on raising children – designed for group discussion. To sponsor this discussion course in your community, contact the Maine Earth Institute.
Schauffler, F. Marina. Turning to Earth: Stories of Ecological Conversion. University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, VA, 2003. The second chapter of this book explains how childhood experiences (particularly outdoor play, books, and mentors) shape the lifelong ethic and practice of nature writers and conservationists.
Helpful Family Guides
Adventuring with Children: The Family Pack-along Guide to the Outdoors and the World, by Nan Jeffrey (with Kevin Jeffrey). Foghorn Press/Avalon House, San Francisco, CA, 1992. This useful handbook covers the basics of what to pack, how to manage the logistics of camping, hiking, bicycling, sailing and canoeing with children. It touches on a lot of the common concerns of young families—from how to manage outdoor travel with babies to what to include in your first aid kit. While the authors and their sons have done extended global travels, most of their learnings apply to families undertaking tamer adventures closer to home.
In and Out of Portland with Children (3rd edition), by Jane Petrlik Smolik. MidRun Press, Wenham, MA, 2006. This guide for family explorations in southern Maine has several chapters that will be of interest to those seeking meaningful outdoor adventures. It lists established boat tours, describes some popular island destinations, and lists aquaria, the State’s wildlife park, and farms that participate in “open farm day.” There are also suggestions for outfitters that offer biking, canoeing and kayaking and climbing.
Mainely Kids: A Guide to Family Fun in Southern Maine, by Crystal Ward Kent, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH, 2005. Chapters on things to “see and do” in southern coastal Maine are interspersed with helpful information about Maine natural history, marine life, and basic safety guidance. While not confined to outdoor opportunities, the guide includes lots of destinations and activities that center around the natural world.
The State of Maine hosts an informative TAKE IT OUTSIDE website with seasonal information, reading ideas and other resources to inspire families to get outdoors.
Families seeking to spend less time before screens and more time outdoors may benefit from the following resources:
Living Outside the Box: TV-free Families Share Their Secrets by Barbara Brock