Technology has provided vast improvements to our classrooms, and to our lives in general. And new innovations continue to come to the forefront. Kids today are growing up in a world that is technologically advanced, fast-paced, and full of screens of all sizes and shapes providing virtual relationships. But are they lacking exposure to some of their most basic, hardwired needs?
Noted environmentalist Paul Shepard argued in his 1992 book Nature and Madness that since humans evolved from hunters and gatherers, we have a need for sustained contact with nature for proper psychological development. His sentiment is echoed by Harvard Biologist E.O. Wilson, who believes that humans thrive in the presence of nature and need to nourish our natural affinity for living creatures.
If we look closely, there we can see an attraction to nature in the choices we make: Would you prefer to sit by a window at work? When we buy a house, do we pay more for scenic views or for houses closer in proximity to the ocean and mountains? Do we find enjoyment in visiting zoos, parks, and other places showcasing natural life? Do we long for an escape from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to a place where we can sit on a beach or breathe in the fresh air?
Author Richard Louv has stated that children today suffer from “nature-deficiency disorder” because they are lacking in the physical and psychological benefits of contact with the natural world. Having a pet in the classroom provides children an opportunity to unplug from their daily digital lives and reconnect with nature. Whether it is simply observing beta fish in their aquarium or handling and caring for the needs of the classroom guinea pig, this daily dose of nature can have a profound impact on children in this digital age.