Loving the earth on Earth Day

If Brooke Moren has one wish, it would be for people to benefit from time spent in nature. As part of Earth Week on the Central Lakes College campus, the 21-year-old student hosted a film showing and discussion Wednesday in the Chalberg Theatre. ...

Central Lakes College student Brooke Moren leads a discussion after the film “Play Again” was shown Wednesday at the Chalberg Theatre. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch - Video

If Brooke Moren has one wish, it would be for people to benefit from time spent in nature.

As part of Earth Week on the Central Lakes College campus, the 21-year-old student hosted a film showing and discussion Wednesday in the Chalberg Theatre. The event was organized through Moren's environmental psychology course and encouraged conversation around the growing divide between humans and the environment.

The 2010 movie, "Play Again," shares the story of a group of adolescents participating in a camp intended to reconnect them with the natural world, rather than the digital one. It includes testimony on the effects of screen time on young people and makes the case that media consumption is directly linked to an environment in peril and a lack of will to save it.

"It's important for people to be exposed to this film so they can change their ways," Moren said.

"If they're a parent, change how they parent, their parenting styles. Or also, if they're an educator, change that. Or if they're in the health care systems, change that."


Moren is pursuing a career in horticultural therapy, the practice of using gardens and nature for therapeutic means to improve health outcomes. She said she hopes to be a part of bringing a greater emphasis to outdoor education within the school system, as a way to combat a growing reliance on screens. Earth Week-culminating in Earth Day this Saturday-was an appropriate time to increase awareness of spending time outdoors, she said.

According to statistics cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. A number of researchers have taken up the question of whether time spent indoors-watching television, playing video games, using smartphones and other electronics-is correlated with behavioral changes and negative health effects in children, whose brains are more susceptible to patterns of repeated behavior.

Research relied upon the by the No Child Left Inside Coalition shows screen time may increase the instance of attention deficit disorder, while time spent outdoors-or "green play time"-is correlated with more attentive behavior.

Following the movie, those in attendance participated in a discussion. Moren recalled using plants, berries, dirt and other outdoor materials to make "salad" and "soup" as a child playing outside, noting she appreciated using her imagination. Jadyn Young, a 22-year-old natural resources student, said she took part in similar outdoor culinary experimentation and she noticed a difference between how she played as a child with how her young nephews play.

"My nephews, they can't get away from a phone or a tablet," Young said. "They, especially my youngest nephew, he gets bored right away (if outside)."

Jarin Spence, 20, also a natural resources student, said he thought adults were becoming just as addicted to devices and should be modeling behavior they want their kids to emulate.

"The movie focused on kids and how kids are growing up," Spence said. "I see adults making the switch to no longer going outside. My grandparents have iPads. ... Parents should be getting their kids outside. Kids are going to choose technology every time, because that's the trend."

LeAnn Plinske, a member of the Brainerd Chapter of Minnesota Master Naturalists, said as a child she lived in the suburbs and had a huge range of territory she and her friends played in outside.


"We'd be gone from morning until night," Plinske said.

She said although that's changed, she sees good examples of young people connecting with nature as well. She's worked with home-schooled children to create nature journals and learn how to navigate with compasses and maps. Eighty students from the Crosby-Ironton schools came to the Northland Arboretum to learn about monarch butterflies. A group of kindergartners through fifth-graders learned each week about a different ecological topic, including insects, trees and birds.

"The kids that are more in touch with nature, are the ones that are more stewards for Earth," Plinske said.

Achieving environmental literacy is the expressed goal of the Earth Day Network, an organization billing itself as the world's largest recruiter to the environmental movement. The group hopes to achieve global climate and environmental literacy by Earth Day 2020, the 50th anniversary of the international civic observance.

"Education is the foundation for progress," the Earth Day Network's website stated. "We need to build a global citizenry, which is fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with knowledge to act in defense of environmental protection."

The organization is also a partner in the March for Science planned for Saturday in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the march, according to organizers, is to "defend the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world."

A satellite march is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at Gregory Park in Brainerd-one local opportunity to get outdoors on Earth Day. Local organizers also planned a volunteer opportunity in conjunction with the Brainerd Chapter of Minnesota Master Naturalists for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Northland Arboretum. Other outdoor opportunities suggested by Plinske are twice-weekly bird hikes at the Arboretum throughout the month of May. At 7 a.m. Thursdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays, master naturalists will lead hikes of about one hour to watch for birds.

Many organizations seek to encourage more outdoor play for children and families. One such initiative is called 1,000 Hours Outside, encouraging parents to accommodate that many hours of outdoor play time for their children within a one-year span. The website Screen-Free Parenting offers numerous suggestions for play not involving screens, with the goal of eventually offering 1 million activities.


As for Moren, she plans to spend Earth Day with her future therapeutic partners.

"I'll be in the greenhouse all day," she said.


Addiction to devices

In the movie "Play Again," the featured teens struggled with addictive behaviors toward their devices, and acknowledged spending hours of their day with screens. A 2016 report released by Common Sense Media found half of teens surveyed felt addicted to their devices, and 59 percent of parents felt their kids were addicted. Other findings included:

• Seventy-two percent of teens and 48 percent of parents felt the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages and other notifications. Sixty-nine percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.

• Seventy-seven percent of parents felt their children get distracted by their devices and don't pay attention when they're together at least a few times per week.

• One-third of parents and teens (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively) said they argue with each other on a daily basis about device use.

Central Lakes College natural resources student Jarin Spence comments on the documentary “Play Again” during the discussion portion after the movie was shown at the Chalberg Theatre Wednesday. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch - Video

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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