Urban Chinese Kids Meet the Natural World

Thomas Galvez/CC BY 2.0
Nanjiang, China

The postcard image of Istanbul would not be complete without its mighty waterways and indeed, few visitors stray too far from their shores. In the city's impoverished inland neighborhoods, however, many people have never even seen the Bosphorus -- much less the ocean.

An exhibition recently on view at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum spotlighted French artist Sophie Calle's videos of Istanbul residents encountering the sea for the first time. They stare out at its expanse, occasionally turning back to the camera in disbelief, wonder, or glee.

New Experiences In Nature
In China too, the natural world is an unknown quantity for an increasing number of urban children, many born to parents who left their rural roots to seek better economic opportunities as workers in the country's sprawling megapolises. Some kids have seen so little of the outdoors that they thrill at a dusty patch of roadside ground where there are some sticks, stones, and leaves to play with, Liu Xinyan writes in a piece published by The Guardian about new nature camps in China:

Song Xi works on Friends of Nature's nature experience project. She asked a group of lively children to close their eyes and lie beneath the branches of a large tree. When they opened their eyes and saw the sun shining through the green canopy, they fell silent -- as if the whole world had stopped.

Concern about "nature deficit disorder" has sparked the creation of many programs in the United States to get kids and families away from their TV sets and out of doors. How encouraging to see experiences that foster a love for nature also becoming more common in a country whose environmental path will have such a big impact -- positive or negative -- on the entire world.

Tags: China | Education | Urban Life

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