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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)

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)

How Small Steps Can Create Outdoors Experiences In Schools

KQED News Mind/Shift – Leah Shaffer

“It started with a school garden at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. The garden did so well that students built another garden. Then they added native plants, where seventh-grade students learned lessons in data collection as they counted pollinators. The students wanted more pollinators, so they added a beehive. The bees made honey, and the kids used their sweet surplus to learn about the economics of commodities, said science educator Scott McClintock, who helped build the MRH middle school science program. But students didn’t stop there. Next came an aquaponics lab in the basement, said McClintock, “so we had this giant tub that we were growing talapia in.” The nitrates from the fish waste got recycled back into the garden. All this took place at a public middle school near St. Louis that previously struggled academically.”(more)

COMMENTARY: Outdoor education belongs in schools and colleges

Greenville Online – Dr. Robert A. Bryant

“America’s kids are spending less and less time outdoors, and their long-term physical, mental, and emotional health is suffering because of it. But it doesn’t have to be that way, if we’ll get more outdoor education into our schools and colleges. A recent survey of 12,000 families with children ages 5 to 12 across 10 countries — including the United States — found that 50 percent of the children spent less than an hour per day outdoors and a third spent less than 30 minutes per day outside.”(more)