Leaves of Change Issue 21: National Team Takes a Unique Approach to Urban Forest Technology and Science Delivery

loc-21-pictureToday, 54 percent of the world’s population is urban, and the United Nations projects that number will be close to 70 percent by 2050. The growing urban population will rely on their ecosystems for a wide range of environmental services and human health benefits that we are only recently beginning to understand. This has fed a growing desire to keep up with the rapidly developing science of urban ecosystems and the emergence of new data and technology for evaluating urban green space, understanding trends, and designing a healthier environment for urban residents.

The Forest Service’s National Urban Forest Technology and Science Delivery Team (NTSD) was formed in November 2013 with the goal of improving the agency’s ability to deliver state-of-the-knowledge information to city planners and natural resource practitioners, in the most rapid and accessible ways possible.

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Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children

barefootandbalToday’s kids have adopted sedentary lifestyles filled with television, video games, and computer screens. But more and more, studies show that children need “rough and tumble” outdoor play in order to develop their sensory, motor, and executive functions. Disturbingly, a lack of movement has been shown to lead to a number of health and cognitive difficulties, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotion regulation and sensory processing issues, and aggressiveness at school recess break. So, how can you ensure your child is fully engaging their body, mind, and all of their senses?  Using the same philosophy that lies at the heart of her popular TimberNook program—that nature is the ultimate sensory experience, and that psychological and physical health improves for children when they spend time outside on a regular basis—author Angela Hanscom offers several strategies to help your child thrive, even if you live in an urban environment. With this book, you’ll discover little things you can do anytime, anywhere to help your kids achieve the movement they need to be happy and healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

For more information visit: http://www.timbernook.com/balanced-and-barefoot-book

 

Window Views to Green Landscapes Help High Schoolers Recover from Attention Fatigue and Stress

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In a recent study, students that were in classrooms with views to green space were better able to pay attention and recover from stressful events than students in classrooms that had views of buildings or other man-made structures, or no windows at all

Ninety-four high school students from five high schools participated in this study. Student participants were randomly assigned to  either a classroom with no windows, a classroom with windows that opened to a built space, and a classroom with windows that opened to a green space. Participants engaged in typical classroom activities followed by a break in the classroom to which they were assigned. The researchers studied stress levels with EKG readings, blood volume pulse, and body temperature.  Other tests measured the students’ attention fatigue and perceived stress levels.

Results demonstrate that classroom views to green landscapes cause significantly better performance on tests of attention and increase student’s recovery from stressful experiences.

To read the full article, click here.

Can Urban Forest Settings Positively Influence Children with Autism?

In late July, autism_greenspaceUSDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the four recipients of the 2016 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grants. One of the recipients, Georgia State University (GSU) and several partners, will investigate the impact of natural environments such as urban and community forests on symptom expression in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Brian Barger, research assistant professor at GSU, is principal investigator for the grant, with collaborators from other universities, nongovernmental agencies, and the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS). Cassandra Johnson Gaither, project leader of the SRS Integrating Human and Natural Systems unit based in Athens, Georgia, and Annie Hermansen-Baez, SRS science delivery and Kids in the Wood coordinator in the same unit, will provide their expertise in assessment and science delivery.

“Research results showing the positive effects of managed natural environments such as urban parks and forests on human general and mental health have grown exponentially over the last decade,” said Barger. “Yet no studies to date have explored the effects of these environments on the expression of core and associated symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders.”

To read the full article in SRS’s CompassLive, click here.