Kids Who Play More Outdoors May be Less Likely to Have Problems with Peers

peer-problem Kids who spend more time outdoors seem to gain a boost in their peer relations, per a new report from Statistics Canada. In September, the agency released a report on outdoor time, physical activity and sedentary time and health indicators of Canadians aged 7 to 14.

Canadian guidelines suggest that kids between 5 and 17 years old get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day. Only 9 percent of children do. (The rule of thumb is if you’re able to carry on a conversation easily then you’re not working hard enough.)

Each additional hour spent outdoors was associated with:

  • 7 more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity.
  • 762 more steps.
  • 13 fewer minutes of sedentary time.

Additionally, children reporting more time outdoors were less likely to have peer relationship problems compared with those who spent less time outside, Mark Tremblay of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and his team said in Health Reports.

To read the full article, click here.

Outdoor Learning Project Reveals Children More Motivated to Learn When Outside

outdoor-learningChildren from 125 schools across the South West of England are happier, healthier and more motivated to learn thanks to a new project commissioned by Natural England that has turned the outdoors into a classroom and helped schools transform ways of teaching.

The findings have been released today by the Natural Connections Demonstration project, a 4-year initiative to help school children – particularly those from disadvantaged areas – experience the benefits of the natural environment by empowering teachers to use the outdoors to support everyday learning.

The project, which is funded by Natural England, Defra and Historic England and delivered by Plymouth University, is the largest project of its kind in England and has already helped more than 40,000 primary and secondary school pupils get out of their classrooms and into the outdoors – whether that’s a math lesson in a local park or drama out on the school field.

To read the full article, click here.

Young Children’s Preferences: What Stimulates Children’s Cognitive Play in Outdoor Preschools?

outdoor-play
Pinterest.com

A number of studies have identified childcare environments as significant resources for children’s development, learning through play, and contact with nature. However, there is a lack of knowledge about how, from a child’s perspective, specific outdoor physical environments in preschools stimulate children’s cognitive play.

Emphasizing on the value of listening to children, this study reports the perspectives of twenty-two 4- to 5-year-olds. The study context was an outdoor preschool with natural, mixed, and manufactured settings. A combination of photo preferences and semi-structured interviews was used to investigate children’s perception of preferred settings and cognitive plays.

The results identified that children mainly enjoyed functional and dramatic play. They mostly preferred mixed behavior settings that incorporated ranges of natural and manufactured elements. Compared to other settings, children found mixed settings provided the most opportunities for functional, constructive, dramatic, and game with rules play. The outcomes of this study have implications for the design of outdoor preschools, suggesting a balanced integration of nature with manufactured play features to enhance cognitive play experiences.

To read the full article, click here. 

 

Creating an Outdoor Classroom: Things to Consider

students-adults-working-to-create-outdoor-classroomStudents at Littlewood Elementary School in Gainesville, Florida are enjoying their new outdoor classroom, thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and a GreenWorks! grant from Project Learning Tree. The outdoor classroom includes seating for 24 students, as well as bird feeders, bird baths, and native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife.

The students were involved in many aspects of creating the outdoor classroom; from site planning and design, through installing bird feeders, planting native species, developing adopt-a-tree signs, and creating stepping stone mosaics.

Teachers are thrilled to have this outdoor space where students can be immersed in learning about nature. They observe bird behavior, calculate the dollar value of trees, measure plant growth, and collect data on seasonal changes.

To read the full article, click here.

How to Raise an Environmentalist

loc_environmentalistThis article discusses how we can encourage kids to care more and take action to protect our environment. Social science research indicates that motivating people to take action requires promoting compassionate concern for the world rather than just stating facts and making disastrous predictions about the future world. Research is suggesting that the desire to conserve is linked to our connection to nature – the degree to which we enjoy spending time in nature. Early exposure to nature increases the likelihood that people will care about the environment once they are adults.

While researchers are still trying to figure out why early exposure to nature increases environmental concern, they do know that emotional engagement is crucial in this process. Maintaining mindful behavior when going into a natural setting leads to a more connectedness with nature and the ability to empathize with the creatures and environment.  The first step in the right direction is to get more children outside, playing, and receiving all the benefits nature has to give.

To read the full article, click here.

Forest Bathing to Improve Health

loc_forestbathingFirst prescribed by Henry David Thoreau in 1854, eco-therapy is now scientifically proven to improve wellbeing. Forest bathing – basically just being in the presence of trees – is a type of eco-therapy that has proven to lower heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone production, and increase the immune system and general feelings of wellbeing. This method of relaxation and health practice is gaining popularity, and not a minute too soon.

A forest bath requires a person to just immerse themselves in nature and relax, instead of trying to accomplish anything. For 8 years, Japanese researchers studied the physiological and psychological effects of this method. They found a boost in the immune system of participants, due to an increase in natural killer cells. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. These positive affects after a few hours in the forest can last for up to a month. These effects can be attributed to phytoncide found in plants and trees in the forests. Trees use this essential oil to protect themselves against bacteria and insects, and humans can use it for an improved immune system.

Nature also had physiological results on participants. They had greater activity in their parasympathetic nerves, which controls the body’s ability to rest and relax. The psychological benefits from forest bathing involved reduced hostility and depressive tendencies among the participants.

Due to the findings of this study, the Japanese government implemented 48 therapy trails throughout local forests. 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.

Every Kid in a Park Initiative

DF-41The Every Kid in a Park initiative enables every US fourth grader (or age equivalent free-choice learner) and his or her family to have free access to any federal land or water for an entire year (up to August 31, 2016). The Every Kid in a Park initiative aims to encourage valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in our national parks, forests, and other federal lands.

Fourth graders were targeted because research show that children ages 9-11 are at a unique developmental stage in their learning where they begin to understand how the world around them works in more concrete ways. They are most likely to have positive attitudes towards nature, the environment, and culture, and grow into the next generation of stewards for our natural wonders and historical landmarks.

Beginning September 1, 2015, fourth graders can visit the “Get Your Pass” section of the Every Kid in a Park website at www.everykidinapark.gov, complete an online activity, and download a personalized paper voucher for print and unlimited use at federal lands and waters locations for one year. The paper voucher also can be exchanged for a more durable, Interagency Annual 4th Grade Pass at certain federal lands or waters sites. The Every Kid in a Park website also offers information and tips for trip planning and how parents can get involved.

Educators will be able to visit a specific area of the website and download and print lesson plan ideas and activities, along with paper vouchers for each of their students. Educators also will find information about the locations of their nearest federal land or water as well as field trip transportation grant opportunities.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative is supported by eight federal agencies:  the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Education, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Visit the Every Kid in a Park website to find out more! www.everykidinapark.gov

Want Your Kids to Get Into Harvard? Tell ‘Em to Go Outside!

DF-41A growing body of evidence supports the belief that spending time in nature has positive impacts for youth.  Schools that have developed outdoor teaching areas and nature-based educational experiences report academic improvements among students in multiple subject areas. Researchers are finding that out-of-school learning experiences, which include non-formal educational settings like national parks, museums, and nature centers, contribute to student’s knowledge and interest in science and the environment.   

To read the full article click here.

Louv, Richard. 2014 Sept 22. Want Your Kids to Get into Harvard? Tell ‘Em To Go Outside. Children & Nature Network: The New Nature Movement. http://blog.childrenandnature.org/

 

Green Schools National Conference to be held in Virginia Beach, March 4-7, 2015

GSNC2015The Green Schools National Conference brings together experts and stakeholders to influence sustainability throughout K-12 schools and school districts.  Colleagues who share their passion and offer their own green schools experiences are put together in a true collaborative event with thought leaders and early adopters of green school best practices.   Attendees are passionate about transforming schools and the way they operate.  The annual conference is designed to allow attendees to learn about creative strategies for success and to take home real-life tools that can transform schools.

The 2015 conference will take place in Virginia Beach, VA, March 4-7, 2015. To learn more about and register for this conference visit: https://greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org/conference/