reading in the woods

Can a backpack save the day?

Did you know that kids spend more time on their phones and electronic devices than ever before?

According to a study by the nonprofit research organization Common Sense Media, as reported by the New York Times, screen use went up among tweens (ages 8 to 12) to, on average, five hours a day between 2019 and 2021.

This increase of 17% is likely due, in part, to the pandemic as families grappled with lack of childcare, remote schooling, and the challenges of isolation and reduced in-person interaction.

Yet, as noted by Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, it’s a trend that’s been on the rise for a while. It’s not all bad. Yet more and more studies are raising childhood psychologists’ concerns that this level of screen time may be altering the brain… and not in a good way.

books and more included in the packEnter nature. And Nature Backpacks.

Thanks to a new partnership with local libraries in Poland, Westernville, and Remsen, with initial funding by the Casimir S. Butnoris Fund of the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc., the Nature Backpacks pilot program will provide nature backpacks for loan starting this summer.

Nature, curiosity, and partnerships

The backpacks are designed to inspire nature exploration and curiosity — and provide an alternative to screen time inside.

“Our community members will put these to good use in our wonderful outdoor spaces we are so fortunate to have in our area,” explained Mary Jo Miller, the librarian at the Western Town Library. “We appreciate the land trust’s partnership and continued effort to provide meaningful resources for our patrons. So many families are looking for opportunities to engage kids in new ways outdoors.”

Each backpack contains equipment, activities, and local trail information for their use specific to each theme beginning with Animal Tracks and Signs, and Birds. The activities are designed for all ages and will suit any family.

Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust will present demonstration programs, and work with the libraries to maintain and replenish the backpacks, ensuring they are in good condition and fully supplied.

It costs approximately $110 per backpack, fully loaded. If you’d like to sponsor a backpack and expand the program, let us know. While kids are more “plugged in” than ever, this is a tool to help empower parents and caregivers to bring the joy of nature to life.