Just because it’s back to school time, doesn’t mean it’s back to indoor time. Sadly, that’s what many kids are exposed to. Schools rarely offer adequate outdoor time for kids. In a race to win the best test scores and prep kids for “Real life” many schools limit outdoor, nature time in exchange for more study time.
The report notes that kids who spend ample time outside in nature reap major educational benefits such as…
- Improved classroom behavior.
- Increased student motivation and enthusiasm to learn.
- Better performance in math, science, reading and social studies.
- Reduced Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Higher scores on standardized tests (including college entrance exams).
Not only that, but outdoor time has been shown to help under-resourced, low-income students perform measurably better in school.
Included in the report is a spring 2010 survey of 1900 educators by the National Wildlife Federation and the survey found that…
- 78% believe children who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play are better able to concentrate and perform better in the classroom.
- 82% said students need daily unstructured outdoor time as a counterbalance to the significant time spent indoors in front of electronic media.
- 75% said students who spend regular time outdoors tend to be more creative and better able to problem solve in the classroom.
What if your school doesn’t offer outside time?
Frankly, as a parent, I think it’s your responsibility to send your child to a green school, or even not a green school, that does send kids outside (and often). If you’re sending your child to a school with 15 minute recesses three times a week and zero nature related field trips, you’re part of the problem. It’s your job, as a parent, to advocate for your child.
- You can search out another school, one that actually gets that kids don’t need to be cooped up at a desk for 40 hours a week.
- You can advocate for changes in the school your child is in already. Back to school: Back Outside easily spells out how schools can implement outdoor time through recess, school gardens, campus greening projects, field trips, outdoor education programs, environmental learning and safe routes to school programs. You can bring some of these ideas to other parents and the school board.
- Make the trip to school outdoor friendly – i.e. walk to school when possible. Studies show that a simple walk to school can help reduce childhood stressors.
- Volunteer to help green your school grounds. Start a tree planting club or a school garden.
- Advocate for sports at your school or get your child into an after school – weekend sports program.
- Don’t forget your older kids. Middle school and high school students also need outdoor time, but rarely get any. Schools for older kids can still incorporate outdoor field trips and environmental curriculum.
Check out the amazing Back to School: Back Outside (pdf) – it’s packed with awesome resources for kids, schools and entire families.