Photo courtesy of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.


As a child, I spent most of my free time outside, gardening, building, or re-enacting the Civil War. I hatched chickens, bred bunnies, and dissected insects. We can all remember summers spent outside while we were growing up: learning about ourselves, the world around us, and creating lifelong memories. These days, kids spend most of their free time playing a video game, or watching TV. It’s strange to try and imagine what kids today will recall in 20 years: “Remember that day I beat your level in (insert popular game here)? What an incredible day that was!”

In his book “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv poses this question: “What would our lives be like if our nights and days were as immersed in nature as they are in technology?”

Last summer I taught dozens of kids how to kayak. I got to see kids getting unplugged from technology and immersed in kayaking for a week. I saw kids transformed, changed, and altered by this experience. They learned new skills, practiced techniques, and had the chance to relax. Away from a structured classroom environment, I watched them experience the magic of experimental education–learning by doing, and sometimes failing.

Photo courtesy of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Spending time in nature provides crucial lessons in how to be fully human. After watching kids learn all summer, and thinking back to my own childhood, I’m reminded of these five reasons to get kids outside and introduce them to kayaking.

1) Learning how to kayak teaches kids to use creative problem solving skills under pressure.

While kayaking, we often have to re-evaluate and come up with a new plan on the spot. There is a rock in the rapid we didn’t see, a branch that wasn’t there a week ago, and these things cause a wrinkle in our plans. We need to solve those problems as they arise, on the river.