A recent post on The New York Times Well blog focused on the benefits of nature and greenery for children and adolescents. Spending time outside can make teens less stressed, help them better retain information, and improve their mood.
Now look around your classroom. When I look around mine I see cinder block walls, fluorescent lighting, and tiny windows (I’m in a basement classroom). Teachers frequently lament how students struggle to pay attention in class but their environment, despite our best decorating efforts, is often dull and boring. What if we took students outside to read? To journal? To work on collaborative projects? I have a cart of Chromebooks in my classroom and the wifi reaches our courtyard. My new goal, now that spring has finally arrived in NJ, is to bring my students outside more often.
Scientists may not know all the answers yet- how long should we spend in nature to reap the benefits? Is there a difference between urban, suburban, and rural areas? What are the implications of doing schoolwork outside? But there is enough evidence at this point to push us out of our comfort zone. Bring those students outside!
In addition, spending time in nature can help kids with attention-deficit problems. According to a recent study, spending time in “green” areas can help students cut their attention-deficit symptom. While the sample size was small, the results are astounding. A “dose” of nature may help almost at much as a dose of medication for students who struggle with ADHD! Yet those students spend hours everyday inside. They are also the students most likely to have recess taken away as a punishment. We need to do better.