What is the connection between a child's development and their connection to the natural world?
In our increasingly urbanized world, where children are more likely to be able to identify corporate logos than any of the plants or trees growing in their neighborhood, and where their food is more likely to come from a can or box than from the soil, the growing disconnect between kids and the natural world probably shouldn't surprise any of us.
But even if it's not surprising, perhaps it ought to be cause for concern, especially considering that same disconnect is prominent in most adults' lives, and that it could be one major factor that keeps the current unsustainable food and energy systems in place. As long as we lack a real understanding of what it takes to produce our food - a resource that we literally can't live without - or the energy we use, or the water we drink, we'll continue to take our connection to those systems that support us for granted, and to make choices that aren't so wise, both for ourselves and for the future of the world.
As adults, we can educate ourselves about these crucial elements of our lives and take action on them, whether it's by installing a home solar array or planting a garden or joining a CSA or cutting water consumption, but kids don't have the same liberties, and will only learn about food and water and energy systems if their parents or teachers choose to focus on them. And while there are a great many teachers and parents that are teaching their kids about food and farming and renewable energy and water issues, for the most part, those topics still remain a bit on the fringe in both education and in daily family life, which is why it's great to see new media projects such as Over Grow The System that highlights and celebrates those who are making a difference in helping to link kids to their natural world.
Over Grow The System, a project of filmmaker Syd Woodward, is "dedicated to raising awareness around our food system, sustainability, and how to live a life that is more in tune with nature," and seeks to highlight those individuals and organizations that are creating viable alternatives to the status quo through short films, digital media, and documentaries.
This video offers a quick overview of the project:
One of the works in progress from Over Grow The System, which is currently being documented on the website with photos, articles, and videos, is a full length feature film called Free Range Child - Raising Children Connected To The Earth & Their Food, which is expected to be finished by 2016.
Here's the trailer for Free Range Child:
"Partnering with children, parents, farmers, and professionals, we seek to better understand the contemporary circumstances that create alienation between children and the natural environment and the effects of this disconnect on their development. Conversely we'll also examine the discourse and examples surrounding the raising of our children with access and engagement to natural and agricultural environments and how they are affected. We hope to learn how technology interacts or interferes with these connections and most significantly, what children, themselves, can teach us about the natural world and their place in it." - Over Grow The System
To find out more about Free Range Child, or about the Over Grow The System sustainability media project in general, head over to the website or the Facebook page. If you'd like to donate to the Free Range Child film project, you can do so via a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.