Friday, October 21, 2005

Kids Need To Get Outside

A growing number of experts have been studying the effects of nature on children’s behavior, emotional well-being, creativity, and academic achievement. They’re saying that it doesn’t look good.

One study, done by the California Department of Education, showed the effects of outdoor-science classes for at-risk sixth graders. When compared to a similar group that studied indoors, they found that the outdoor students improved their math and science scores by 27 percent. They also showed to be more cooperative, attentive, and more likely to get along with their fellow students.

Other research has shown that children with ADD have a better ability to concentrate, can complete tasks, and can follow directions better after having playtime in green, natural settings. Children deprived of contact with nature tend to be more depressed, anxious, and have lower self-esteem. Author Richard Louv recently named this “Nature-deficit disorder”.

By the 1990’s, the area around people’s homes that children were allowed to play had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. They say that today’s average 8 year old can better identify cartoon characters then native species. In the past five years the rate in which doctors are prescribing antidepressants has doubled. While at the same time, the average time spent viewing TV had risen to four hours. One study has found that due to the increased demands on their time, from homework and structured activities, children’s play time has dropped 25 percent between 1981-1997. No one is suggesting letting children run off unsupervised. But they do suggest that parents try harder to ensure that their children get their needs for nature met.

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