Gazing At Stars Rather Than Screens

Gazing At Stars Rather Than Screens
It took an evening listening to Finnish music in the dark to revive my hope that my daughter will develop a love of nature.

Last weekend, a stargazing event brought hundreds of people to the Hickory Ranch portion of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

The event — a fundraiser for Friends of Paynes Prairie — included telescopes, a hayride and the band Vellamo rather incongruously but beautifully playing Finnish folk tunes.

It was my wife Colleen's idea to go. I was reluctant because our daughter Kate, who turned 2 in November, is prone to turn into a little monster when the sun sets.

But Kate seemed delighted to be outside at night, seeing stars obscured in our light-polluted neighborhood. While she's still very young, I hope these kind of experiences plant a seed in her that later blooms into an appreciation of the outdoors.

A few years ago, author Richard Louv made the rounds in Alachua County discussing his belief that children today are suffering from "nature-deficit disorder." Louv's 2005 book, "Last Child in the Woods," explored the idea that electronic gizmos and overprotective parents were depriving kids of beneficial outdoor activities.

We're taking the first steps in exposing Kate to nature, including a recent trip to the La Chua Trail on Paynes Prairie. But the overprotective part of the problem was illustrated there in the extreme: I spent much of the visit worried my little daughter was going to become alligator bait.
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