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Less plastic, more trees: New effort seeks to reinvent preschool playgrounds and capture kids’ imaginations

Chalk Beat – Ann Schimke

“The idea is to create outdoor spaces that capture kids’ imagination, connect them with nature and keep them active in every season. Such efforts grow out of a recognition in the education field that healthy habits start early and boost learning. Step by Step staff members had talked many times about their stagnant play space. But it was hard to envision anything different until they attended a design workshop with experts from ECHO, a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation, Qualistar Colorado and the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University.”(more)

6 Free Activities For Kids That Don’t Feel Like Exercise

The Huffington Post – Alyson Schafer

“The weather is getting warmer and we can’t wait to finally enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. But as much as we all yearn for those hot days, let’s face it, not all kids love the outdoors. Perhaps they are not naturally sporty or they prefer their beloved Xbox games, but it can be tough to make some kids get outside and be active. According to reports, Canadian children have become more sedentary in general. The 2016 Participaction Report Card says children should get one accumulated hour of heavy sweat-inducing exercise a day in addition to several hours of light activity. (However, a new study found that kids need just 10 minutes of intense activity a day.) Turns out, only nine per cent of kids get the proper amount of exercise, and only 24 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds meet the Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommendation of no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day, with the average five- to 17-year-old Canadian spending 8.5 hours being sedentary each day.”(more)

The best books about green living for children of all ages

The Guardian – Zofia Niemtus

“When the future of the planet is tied into decisions the younger generation make today, it’s crucial to have classroom conversations about the environment. But how do we talk about such complex issues, bound up with science and politics, in an engaging way? Books with a green theme can provide a useful starting point in these discussions. Here are some of our favourite options, for children of all ages.”(more)

A natural history GCSE? It might help get our children outdoors

The Guardian – Michael McCarthy

“It is now 12 years since the American author Richard Louv pointed out that something new and potentially very damaging was happening to children: they were retreating from the world of outside. Young people were no longer playing in the fields, woods and parks where their parents played, and they were losing contact with nature: for their leisure time, they were retreating back inside the house. In Last Child in the Woods, Louv documented the causes and consequences. Of the reasons, two stood out: parents’ mushrooming fear of “stranger danger”, the belief that outside has become a very risky place for the unaccompanied young; and the powerful attraction of electronic screens, of computer games and the internet for children themselves.”(more)

Creating a buzz: how UK schools are embracing beekeeping

The Guardian – Zofia Niemtus

“We know that things are bad with bees right now. In the past decade, they have been disappearing at an alarming rate – a combination of pests, pesticides and the destruction of habitats has seen the UK population decrease by about a third over that period. In September, the US added seven types of bees to its list of endangered species for the first time. The consequences of losing them would be huge: Albert Einstein once said that humans “would not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years”. Help is taking all kinds of forms: from fundraising gigs to experimental robotic pollinators and Tesco donating waste sugar to keep Cornish hives going through the winter.”(more)

How Access to Nature During The School Year Can Help Students Thrive

KQED News Mind/Shift – Leah Shaffer

“Time outdoors is valuable for a child’s development. With the ever-expanding increase in time spent watching screens, children suffer from “nature deficit disorder,” a term coined by author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Louv connects the rise of obesity, along with increased psychological and academic problems, to decline in outdoor time. Exposure to nature contributes to “emotional restoration, decreases stress, can decrease symptoms of anxiety, can elevate mood,” according to Cathy Jordan, research director for the Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit organization Louv founded to reconnect children with nature. “Kids who get to experience this kind of play and learning are happier, healthier and smarter,” she said.”(more)