Nature 4 Life! – Healthy Communities Partnership

Nature 4 Life! – Healthy Communities Partnership


Many of us have fond memories of childhood
days spent roaming and playing in the out of doors. What fun we had! Children today have less time for unstructured
creative play outside. They are spending an average of seven hours
a day in screen time. Children connected to nature are healthy,
happy and ready to learn. Kids and nature belong together. Kids that have time to play out on their own
in nature, in unstructured play, are physically more active and so they’re stronger, they’re
more coordinated, and have more flexibility. They feel stronger inside themselves. Children experience the awe and the wonder
of nature when they are out there. You have seen a child who picks up a rock
and looks at all the insects underneath it, or they look at the bean that they have planted
in the garden, the seed, and then how the little shoot comes up. And then they eat the beans that they’ve
grown themselves. Also, when they’re out in nature, the brain
is calmer. It is more relaxed and they feel that they
are part of something bigger. The prostaglandins and the pinene actually
calm the brain so the child can learn more. The really good thing about the child being
out in nature is that the development that they achieve when they are out there actually
stays with them, so that they are better able to learn at school, at home, and so on. So it is critically important that we give
kids an opportunity to be out in nature. We let them explore in an unstructured way. Let them discover the beauty of nature and
discover all the wonder that it has. It is always a privilege to have children
and families come up to enjoy a day outing in nature. So many kids today are completely disconnected
from nature and also they don’t have much freedom to be outdoors on their own time. When they come out here in the winter they
may see tracks in the snow. So they go at their own pace according to
their own interests and nature, by far, is the best teacher and it’s by far the best
healer with almost every kind of human ailment you can think of – problems with attention
span, problems with having empathy for others and with wildlife that shares this with us. It just becomes more beneficial after being
out in nature with the ability to learn in school – almost everything you can think of
and most importantly, they leave feeling better than when they came. We know that there’s an awful lot of concern
about our children’s mental health recently. It may be that they are being asked to deal
with stressors that they’re just not well equipped to deal with yet. So, what is it that we can do to help them? Well, one of the things we can do is, we can
get them out into nature. We know that nature is a natural buffer against
stress, and in addition to being a buffer, we can also derive a lot of benefits, in terms
of reducing our anger, reducing our fatigue, and feeling better generally through mindfulness
and through opportunities to be able to have clear focus. Our job as adults, as parents, is to help
kids to be their emotional best. Take your kids out to play. When children experience outdoors, they’re
learning reading, writing, listening and communication. They’re learning vocabulary. They’re learning the world around them,
and they can relate that back to reading a story. They’re learning fine motor skills by picking
up tree limbs and twigs and pine cones and leaves and putting things into buckets. They’re learning math skills by measuring,
you know, looking up and saying, ‘How tall is that tree? How short is that tree?’ How big steps are in the snow. Comparing animal prints in the snow, how many
claws one has compared to another. They’re learning different science components. When they want to know if something sinks
or floats in the puddle that they found or what happens when they mix snow with water,
or dirt with sand. Children really require basic motor skills
such as: walking, climbing, stepping over things and learning their balance. When they’re outdoors, they have a free
range to move around. They are learning those basic motor skills. Children learn to walk on uneven ground, when
they walk on uneven ground. We need to create active, healthy, capable
children and when we play outdoors on a regular basis; we’re helping them do that. I’ve been working with children in the outdoors
in nature for the better part of 15 years as an outdoor educator, and we just see so
many benefits for students when they are out in the outdoors. You know there’s lots of great science starting
to show how great it is for kids’ emotional well-being and you know, just being outside
and breathing that fresh air, being happy. It helps with things like depression and anxiety,
for sure. Their physical well-being, you know, kids
are outside, they’re climbing, they’re learning how to balance, you know, engaging
in all those great activities that help them grow and develop as individuals and also,
obviously the educational benefits. So, everything is hands-on. Kids are exploring, they’re asking questions,
they’re engaged in what they are interested in and over the years, I don’t know how
many times I’ve had teachers tell me, you know, or point out a student to me and say,
‘That student in class, has such a hard time focusing but here, look at how engaged
they are, look at how much of a leader they are, because they are in it, they are hands-on
and they’re doing the things they are interested in.’ So, you know, being outside in nature is great
for, not only kids, but really, for everybody. The MAPsack project has been funded by the
Healthy Kids Community Challenge. Our goal is that children and families will
use the MAPsacks to go and explore nature in their own back yards or out in conservation
areas and parks nearby in their communities. We’re hoping that kids find all kinds of
inspiring stories and information in the MAPsacks and the tools that they can use to get
out to move and play. To turn over a log and see if they find any
fantastic amphibians under, to look and see if they can see any animals that have been
hiding with camouflage and to just get out and explore nature in their own backyards
and see what they can find. Let’s make sure every kid gets outside,
every day.

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