Boys and Nature

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it or enjoy sharing the pleasure and joy of it with those who celebrate Christmas.

When I was writing about boys in the city, I was thinking about  my friend and Colleague, Dr. Kimberly Bezaire and her research on boys, play, and literacy as well as her mother research that she’s been doing with her son for more than 10 year. So, I thought to invite her to join the dialogue and post on this blog. Here’s what she wrote for us and also generously shared a picture of her son.

Yes…boys pretend – tell, act and live stories – outside… adventures, dangers, fears & courage – these are the play themes I see and hear… especially when I’m not supervising TOO closely.

What is it about outdoor play that makes it so memorable, so special, so full of imagination and possibility?
The wind in your hair… the big sky or the tiny bugs… crunchy leaves… the smell of green… the feel of squishy mud The many things that fill our senses when we’re outdoors….

The risk-taking, experimentation, and adaptability that is possible outdoors – when kids aren’t restrained as much by grown-up walls and grown-up rules… then they can build and break down their OWN walls… and make up their OWN rules… no worries about too much noise or too much mess.… friendship & feelings – loyalties & comradeship are focus – creating and overcoming obstacles!

One comment on “Boys and Nature

  1. Randy Eady says:


    Wonderful to read about your’s and Kimberly’s research and remarks about boys and nature.

    As an applied anthropologist (working with gender justice and issues related to equality in majority male developmental environments (US Uniformed Services) I can really relate.

    While Course Chair of Cultural Anth. at the USAF Academy I developed Out-of-Doors Rites of Passage experiences that spoke specifically to gender difference in identity formation and community dev.

    Rite of Passage Hued Pink was the Girl’s Workshop (we used the film Pan’s Labyrinth as our backdrop)

    A Girl’s Quest (Part 1)
    Pan’s Labyrinth is a rich allegorical adult fairy tale by writer-director Guilermo del Toro. Set in 1944 Spain (the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War) 12-year old Ofelia travels with her frail and pregnant mother, Carmen to a remote village to meet her new stepfather, a sadistic Fascist captain named Vidal who is bent on exterminating the last Republican resistance to Franco scattered in the nearby hills.

    Pan’s Labyrinth is that rare thing: a story about the quest of the little girl. We’re accustomed to boys becoming men with the help of mentor-wizards and swords; this is a narrative about a little girl’s quest to become a woman, or rather her decision about whether to accept that fate at all. Ofelia, sees distinctly what men do to women and what women become when they attain their biological inheritance. This is not as simple as becoming mothers; although maternal instinct acts as a powerful undercurrent. . .

    For the boys we created a highly interactive “Lets Hear it for the Boys” program. And we spoke directly to how young boys form and shape self-identity and how truly different that process is from girls. Girls, as we know, have obvious biological markers that signal maturity and outwardly predicate change of self-identity. But, what is even more important is how girls begin to formulate their feelings, social view of the world and communicate that to each other. These are features on a girl’s social landscape that aren’t significantly altered by technology. Boys, on the other hand, forge self-identity by interaction with their physical environment and link their social world through that instrumental style of relationship building. This may not seem like a big difference; yet take a closer look at what’s occurred in the boy’s realm of the equation.

    Whereas multi-media advances have helped girls plug in and increase the amplitude of their expression (as friends and family members can attest), the same multi-media, video-gaming technology has had a profoundly negative social effect on many boys. In some extreme instances boys have unplugged from the real world and insulated themselves in sheaths of computer code. In basic terms, boys have lost mentors or in more pragmatic terms, created virtual mentors as media technology and peers have taken precedence over parents, educational partners and other significant adult role models.

    Thanks again for delving into this subject. As a father of four boys, a former Air Force officer, faculty member in the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership @ USAF Academy and a professional counselor, I’ve been focusing on the plight of boys in our society for quite awhile. Oftentimes, a social condition has to reach startling proportion before it can be seen–especially in an area as abstract as identity formation.

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