By Dawn Hammer Tabata
Back to school. Back to nature, I say.
It’s that time of the year again. Children are back at school busy with classes, homework, sports, etc. Parents are making sure their children are getting what they need to become healthy, successful adults. Scholastics, clubs, and organized sports probably take top priority.
The benefits of exercise or physical activity of any kind has been fully researched and proven effective for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but what about the benefits of nature? Does the experience of nature have a supplemental beneficial effect on young people beyond the benefits of physical activity?
Many of us remember playing outside until the street lights came on or your mom called you in for dinner. I remember hours exploring the farm fields and woods’ edge near my home. Most of today’s children probably won’t have this experience. The average American boy or girl spends as few as thirty minutes of unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen (National Wildlife Federation).
Scientific research shows that outdoor play, in addition to increasing fitness levels, also reduces stress, anxiety, and depression in children while at the same time increasing positive social interactions and critical thinking skills. Exposure to nature can reduce stress in children by as much as 28% while also improving mood and self-esteem (NEEF USA). Even a 20-minute walk in nature can help children with ADHD symptoms have better concentration as well as improved behavior. While exercise in general has beneficial effects on children, many studies indicate that exercise in a natural setting increases benefits mentally, psychologically, and even physically (Science Daily).
I was hiking along with one of our summer camp groups a few weeks ago when I overheard one of the participants comment, “boy, there sure is a lot of nature around here.” Grange Insurance Audubon Center encourages you to experience “a lot of nature around here” as often as you can. We offer many classes, programs, and hikes for children of all ages (adults, too) throughout the year, and close to home.
Go back to school, but don’t forget to come back to nature!