It’s that time of year! We’re getting “Back to School” but that doesn’t mean we have to leave the fun of summer nature-time behind. In fact, we can get BACK TO NATURE while we’re also gearing up for the school year.
All it takes is a little extra planning. Check out the strategies below!
7 Strategies for Getting Back to School & Back to Nature
- If it’s possible, walk to school with your child. Be sure to observe what’s happening in nature as you walk. Click here for instructions on how to do a wildlife walk with your kids.
- Get to school 10 minutes early so they can play on the playground and get their wiggles out before the bell rings.
- Allow your child to play on the playground for 10 minutes after school so they can relax and unwind from the long school day.
- Let your children do their homework outside.
- Set aside 1 hour each week do to a STEM nature activity with your child. Get FREE lessons here!
- Eat dinner outside as a family.
- Try to go to the zoo, nature museum, nature center, science museum once a month for a little informal science education. Let your kids invite their friends!
Now that we know how to integrate more outdoor time into our “Back to School” schedules, let’s discuss why it’s so important.
Children are migrating indoors. Kids spend more time than ever on screens and schools continue to cut recess. But the scientific research is clear, nature is GOOD for our kids. It makes them happier, healthier, and smarter.
Our school systems are not maintaining or even protecting outdoor time for our kids. So it’s vitally important that, as parents, we find a way to prioritize that time for our children. Below, I’ve included some of the scientific evidence that explains why protecting and maintaining nature time is so important!
7 Reasons You Should be Making Outdoor Time a Priority for Your Kids
- Research shows that nature boosts children’s critical thinking skills which is great for getting back into the school routine! (Ernst & Monroe, 2004).
- Research shows that nature can make your child more self-disciplined (Faber Taylor et al., 2002). And let’s be honest, we could all use a little more discipline when it comes to this time of year.
- Research shows that nature decreases symptoms related with ADHD (Amoly et al., 2014). If you have a child with ADHD and you’re worried about their ability to stay focused in class, try incorporating more nature time into their day.
- Research shows that nature increases student academic performance (Bartosh, 2003; Wu et al., 2014). Kids who had more views of green and blue spaces did better on exams.
- Kids who play outside regularly are more physically fit and healthy. (Sallis et al., 2000).
- Being outside can decrease stress and increase resiliency, which is exactly what so many of our kids need! (Chawla et al., 2014)
- American kids spend, on average, 7 hours a day on screens and 7 minutes outside playing. Need I say more?
How do you protect outdoor time for your kids during the school year? We’d love to hear your comments!
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Amoly, E., Dadvand, P., Lopez-vicente, M., Basagana, V., Julvez, J., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., Sunyer, J. (2014). Green and blue spaces and behavioral development in Barcelona schoolchildren: the BREATHE Project. Environmental Health Perspectives. 122(12):1351-1358.
Bartosh, Oksana. (2003). Environmental Education: Improving Student Achievement. Evergreen State College.
Chawla, L., Keena, K., Pevec, I., & Stanley, E. (2014). Green schoolyards as havens from stress and resources for resilience in childhood and adolescence. Health & Place. 28:1-13.
Ernst, J, & Monroe, M. (2004.) The effects of environment-based education on students’ critical thinking skills and disposition toward critical thinking. Environmental Education Research. 10(4): 507-522.
Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., Sullivan, W.C. (2002). Views of nature and self-discipline: evidence from inner city children. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 22:49-63.
Wu, C-D., McNeely, E., Cedeno-Laurent, J., Pan, W-C., Adamkiewicz, G., Dominici, F., Lung, S-C. C., Su, H-J., Spengler, J.D. (2014). Linking student performance in Massachusetts elementary schools with the “greenness” of school surroundings using remote sensing. PloS One. 9(10): 1-9.