Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Education: Time for Vitamin 'N'

"Every child needs nature. Not just the ones with parents who appreciate nature. Not only those of a certain economic class or culture or gender or sexual identity or set of abilities. Every child."
Richard Louv

Time for holiday. Time for vitamin 'N' of 'Nature' ! Beach, camping, cycling, walking and playing outdoor

It's not the first time I write about the importance of Nature in Education. Children's Day: let's go outdoor; Environmental Education and outdoor; World Environmental Day in School EducationIberian wolf as environmental education; are some other posts on my blog. My usual readers know  it well.

So The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv might be interesting teachers and parents, of course, if these books are new for you.

I am a 'N' teacher! I hope you are as well. There are some lessons that will be fantastic and successful when done outdoors the classroom.

Recent studies show that over the last few decades the area in which children are free to play and roam has shrunk dramatically by almost 90%. 

"Children are generally spending far less time outdoors than any previous generation, trapped by the barriers of irrational ‘stranger danger’, very rational traffic danger, crazy health and safety fears, their increasingly structured and organised lives, their decreasing access to green space; and, of course, lured by the rise of indoor entertainment."

Consequences? In an increasingly urbanised, electronic-based, risk-adverse world, the adults of the future are displaying the symptoms of "nature-deficit disorder".

May be a good reading for your season break, if you are preparing to get back in school (new school year begins in August in some countries). It can be useful.

In "Last Child in the Woods", child advocacy expert Richard Louv links the lack of nature in the lives of today's "wired generation" - he calls it 'nature-deficit-to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression'. 

Last Child in the Woods was the first book to bring together a new and growing work of research indicating that direct exposure to Nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. 

This new edition reflects the enormous changes that have taken place since the book was originally published. It includes:
  • 100 actions you can take to create change in your community, school, and family.
  • 35 discussion points to inspire people of all ages to talk about the importance of nature in their lives.
  • A new progress report by the author about the growing Leave No Child Inside movement.
  • New and updated research confirming that direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.

And in The Nature Principle, Richard Louv delivers another powerful call to action, this time for adults.

"Our society has developed such an outsized faith in technology that we have yet to fully realize or even adequately study how human capacities are enhanced through the power of nature."

Richard Louv

Those books kicked off national and international dialogue among educators, health professionals, parents, developers and conservationists. And of course, educators will be happy introducing Nature activities in School curriculum.


Research suggests that exposure to the natural world – including nearby nature in cities – helps improve human health, well-being, and intellectual capacity in ways that science is only recently beginning to understand.

What do we know about how human beings, particularly children and young people are affected by the absence of nature’s intrinsic benefits? 

And teachers! Believe it! Nature is very good for stimulate creativity. Research shows that children play more creatively in free outside space and will be more creative in school activities.

Some Activities: In your classroom  

  • Display posters about Nature;
  • Invite students to create Nature brochures; 
  • Discuss the health benefits of playing outdoor;
  • Provide information, brochures, places, parks, outdoors museums, where parents, grandparents students can get outdoors;
  • Indicate website addresses about Nature and ask students to do some research about outside beneficits and the great risks of a sedentary lifestyle;
  • Encourage students with their families to create natural play-spaces in their own yards and neighborhoods (urban, suburban and rural).

Some Resources for Teachers :

20 Ways To Create Naturally Restorative Home and Gardens: read here

Natural Leaders Network 2013 Curriculum Guide: download here

Wild Time project is a movement to get kids playing outside more, roaming freely and re-connecting with the natural world on our doorsteps. Join here

Teachers, students and parents can download the Wild Time app for free on iTunes.

Some thoughts:

I love technology in school curriculum but there are amazing connections to find in Nature. 

Children can learn so much from direct contact with nature: about nature itself (those ants!), about life (just watch a spider rebuild its web…) and potentially about any subject.

There’s a growing movement within education that recognises that children learn differently and better when outside, experiencing the world directly.

For students with special needs, Nature can be an a strategy to reduce ADHD symptoms. 

Some researchers suggest nature time as an alternative therapy for some children diagnosed with ADHD and other similar conditions. 

Nature can help other children without attention difficulties do better in school. 

And finally, Nature is good for the future of nature itself!  As naturalists and BBC presenter David Attenborough have pointed out, where will the nature lovers of tomorrow come from if children are no longer allowed to roam, seek, observe, discover and collect?

So, since the first Earth Day, my students collaborated developing outdoors activities and actions at school. You will find some posts about Earth Day on my blog or my students' blogs here and here.

I always include Nature in Humanities curriculum. Going for a lesson outside at a park, or museum gardens, even at the outdoor space at the school, we developed several projects and creative activities about Nature & Literature in School education.

Literature and nature, a good experience to explore.

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Richard Louv


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