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Inspired by past, NY town seeks to get kids into nature

Written by: Staff
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KINGSTON, New York, Mar 12 (Reuters) With American children increasingly obese and addicted to video games, a small town in upstate New York is looking 100 years into its past to lead them outdoors and maybe help conserve the planet.

John Burroughs, who died in 1921, was one of the great naturalists of his day, and his accessible books and nature essays were once required reading for schoolchildren.

Now, in an age when some children have never seen a squirrel, a group of fans wants to return Burroughs to prominence, fearful that his greatness is fading away when it is needed most.

''All this technology and video games are intimidating children, making them afraid of nature. This message is a nice antidote to that,'' said Melinda Terpening, director of a museum about the history of the Hudson Valley, the area north of New York City where Burroughs lived.

Burroughs preached the importance of experiencing nature first-hand, and his nature essays were among the first of their genre. He produced 29 books based in large part on his observations while farming, camping, fishing and walking.

He was a friend of US President Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and one of the early promoters of the poetry of Walt Whitman.

The Burroughs advocates, organised by first-grade teacher Gloria Lipton, have gathered in Kingston, a strikingly rural area for being just 90 miles north of New York City, straight up the Hudson River.

They have vowed to get Burroughs's work republished and used in school curricula, to create a learning centre dedicated to his work and to promote his rural cabin Slabsides as a tourist site. They also hope to launch an essay contest for local schoolchildren and students at more than a dozen public schools named after Burroughs across the country.

MORE REUTERS SHB KP0900

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