Nature Can Make Us Happier, Healthier, and Smarter
June 21, 2019
There is something to be said for exchanging four walls and a smartboard for the outdoors. Nature, after all, is one of the world’s greatest classrooms.
I recently attended the inauguration ceremony for an outdoor classroom built at my kids’ elementary school. They named it the “Nature and Curiosity Wild Space“.
The timber frame structure is open air concept while also being completely covered; students can sit and learn no matter what the weather and overlook a beautiful, natural backdrop that includes a stream home to many ducks and frogs.
Several feet away, large boulder rocks have been set up in a circle where a class can discuss an assignment or project while enjoying the fresh air.
Dozens of trees have been planted, and students of all ages at the school have grown wildflowers, fruits, vegetables, and even released monarch butterflies they raised into the environment.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation has officially recognized the school (Morin Heights Elementary, north of Montreal, Canada) as a Wildlife-Friendly Habitat.
I am thrilled my kids have the opportunity to spend their formative years learning in this environment. It is so vital to their health!
According to the David Suzuki Federation, the average North American child spends less than 30 minutes outside each day and several hours in front of a screen.
We also hear a lot about kids in school with low attention spans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that 11% of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
But research shows that if you get them outdoors, they’ll be healthier, happier, and smarter.
Science has proven that greenery holds a very special power, helping students with their academics and mental health.
A review of hundreds of different studies found kids who spend time in nature every day have improved attention spans, better self-discipline and physical fitness, as well as less stress.
Children with ADHD who take a 20-minute walk in a park can improve symptoms just as effectively as a dose of medication can.
And a social prescribing movement has many doctors prescribing time in the garden over medication to patients suffering from conditions such as anxiety and depression.
A CBC News report says there are two theories as to why nature is an excellent remedy, the first being the Stress Reduction Theory. A natural environment has surrounded humans since the beginning of time, and so it feels very comfortable and familiar to us.
The Attention Restoration Theory suggests that nature is more relaxing than crowds and cities, and improves our focus and concentration abilities.
Whatever theory you believe, there’s no doubt that nature does the mind and body good.
Go play outside!
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