Tag Archives: older kids

New Meta-Analysis of Hundreds of Studies: Nature Boosts Children’s Learning in Eight Ways

nature boosts children learning

A large metastudy of hundreds of scientific studies has found what most parents and teachers already know — nature has a powerfully positive impact on children’s learning and on their emotional health.

“Report after report – from independent observers as well as participants themselves – indicate shifts in perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and resilience,” the authors wrote.  “The evidence here is particularly strong, including experimental evidence; evidence across a wide range of samples and instructional approaches; outcomes such as standardized test scores and graduation rates; and evidence for specific explanatory mechanisms and active ingredients.”

The meta-analysis (a study that combined the results of many other studies) was published last month in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.  After combining all of the findings, the researchers found that nature helps children learn in eight different ways.

The eight key ways that nature helps children learn were:

Nature Rejuvenates Kids and Helps Them Focus

Studies showed that whether it was students going on field trips, Swedish preschoolers, children in Chicago public housing, or 5 to 18-year-olds with ADHD, nature had a rejuvenating effect on attention.  These findings were confirmed not just by parent and teacher ratings, but by neurocognitive tests.

Nature Relieves Stress

The studies showed that even seeing nature out the classroom window had a positive effect on kids, lowering their heart rates and leading to kids who reported lower stress levels.  Better yet were the kids who were able to learn in a forest setting once a week.  Those kids had lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels even beyond what could be attributed to the physical activity of being outdoors.

Contact With Nature Boosts Self-Discipline

Studies from Spain to inner city Chicago showed that kids who spent time in nature had better impulse control, including kids with ADHD and learning disabilities.  Contact with animals such as horses was found to also have a positive effect.

Student Motivation, Enjoyment, and Engagement Are Better in Natural Settings

Many of the studies found that students and teachers reported strikingly high levels of student engagement and motivation, not just in nature activities that kids had chosen to take part in but also in mandatory school activities in nature.  The researchers noted that learning in and around nature was associated with intrinsic motivation and not just extrinsic motivation (meaning kids were motivated to do things themselves and not doing them because they were forced to), which is important in keeping kids engaged and interested in learning.

“The positivity of learning in nature seem to ripple outward, as seen in learners’ engagement in subsequent, indoor lessons, ratings of course curriculum, materials, and resources and interest in school in general, as well as lower levels of chronic absenteeism,” the authors wrote.

The researchers also found that “learning in nature may improve motivation most in those students who are least motivated in traditional classrooms.”

Time Outdoors Is Tied to Higher Levels of Physical Activity and Fitness

Children’s time outdoors was linked to cardiorespiratory fitness, the type of fitness most clearly associated with better academic performances.  Studies also showed that kids who had access to nature stayed more active, even into adulthood.

Natural Settings Provide Calmer, Quieter, Safer Contexts for Learning

The researchers found that both formal and informal learning improved in nature.  When they were learning in a natural setting, kids were less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors like pushing each other or talking out of turn.  “Further, in greener learning environments, students who previously experienced difficulties in traditional classrooms are better able to remove themselves from conflicts and demonstrate better self-control,” the authors noted.

Natural Settings Foster Friendlier, More Cooperative Relations

Many of the studies showed that natural settings helped kids make friends and feel more trusting.  The researchers theorized that the kids were able to engage more with each other, and that they had a better spirit of cooperation not just with each other but with their teachers.  In addition, they reported that “learning in greener settings has been consistently tied to the bridging of both socio-cultural differences and interpersonal barriers (e.g., personality conflicts) that can interfere with group functioning in the classroom.”

Natural Settings Encourages “Loose Parts” Play, Independence and Healthier Forms of Play

The benefits of “loose parts” play (play involving small objects that kids can use to play and create in open-ended ways) are extended into nature, where kids have access to sticks, rocks, water, dirt and other natural materials.  Studies have shown that teachers and principals found that kids who engaged in loose parts play in nature had more physically active, social and creative play, which were likely to lead to improvements in social, emotional and academic development.

Some of the most interesting studies included:

  • One study of over 3,000 students found that kids who took part in a classroom garden learned more than those on the wait list.  The more garden time they had, the more they learned.
  • Several studies showed that having nature around schools led to better standardized test scores, even in schools with high poverty levels.
  • Many studies showed that time in “wilderness” led to kids developing better leadership skills, resilience, self-confidence, cooperation, perseverance, critical thinking and more.
  • Greener everyday environments seemed to buffer kids from stress and give them better coping skills.

The authors noted that even small doses of nature helped kids, like being able to see nature out their classroom windows.  Obviously, the more time they spent in nature, the better, though.  They wrote:

“Even small exposures to nature are beneficial. If you’re indoors, having a view of your yard as opposed to facing the wall, that makes a difference. At the same time, more is better. That’s one of the things that gives us more confidence that we’re seeing a real cause-and-effect relationship,” Kuo says. “The bigger the dose of nature we give a person, the bigger the effect we see in them.”

Looking for some inspiration to get your kids outside?  I’ve been publishing a free nature-based monthly magazine for kids and their grown ups this year — Wild Kids Magazine.  You and your kiddos can read it online or print it out. It’s a nonprofit project (just as this blog always has been), just to try to do my little bit to spread good stuff in the world.

wild kids collage

Want to help convince your school to incorporate more nature in its learning?  These organizations may be able to help.

Natural Start Alliance works to connect parents, teachers, day care providers and others who teach kids “with the tools they need to create great educational experiences that help young children explore the natural world, understand their environment, and build lifelong skills that will help keep them active and engaged in their communities.”

The Children & Nature Network encourages and supports the people and organizations working to reconnect every child in every community with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers, individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being. C&NN also provides resources for sharing information, strategic initiatives and success stories.

I’ve also created a list of my favorite nature-based books for families (and those I can’t wait to read) on Goodreads, from The Wild Weather Book to How to Grow a School Garden.  Please add your favorites!

“Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.” 

–David Polis

Here’s to more nature goodness for all of us.

 

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Bleach Pen Fun!

Here’s a great craft for older kids and teens to show off their creativity and bring new life to boring clothes.  Try your hand at bleach pen altering!

Victoria made this lovely shirt from an old peach t-shirt of mine that I was going to donate. 

She put a layer of waxed paper inside the shirt (to prevent bleach soaking through to the other side) and laid the shirt flat, then drew a freehand design on the shirt and put it aside to dry completely before washing (do this in a well ventilated room).

She had so much fun that she altered a ton of other clothing she scrounged up, from colored undies (peace signs were added in back!) to shirts and socks.

This could be done with younger kids if a parent does the actual bleach pen work, since bleach is very caustic.

For young kids, have them draw the design with chalk, then have a parent go over it with the pen.

Want to see some inspiration from others?  Here’s a google image search of all sorts of great designs others have done.  Fun!

 

 

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Download 50 whimsical journal pages for free!

(Photo courtesy Evan-Amos, Public Domain)

I’m not much of a journal keeper, but I think I could be if I got to use these delightful pages from Grace is Overrated

Blog owner and artist Christie Zimmer says:

These pages were created out of a sense of delightful (and occasionally insightful) personal exploration.  They combine fill-in-the-blank journal prompts with off-kilter to-do lists with game-show-inspired lightning rounds with whatever else comes to mind.  I’ve had a great time creating them and I hope you’ll have just as much fun filling them in.  Collect them all in a binder or envelope and look back every once in a while to see all that you’ve accomplished!

The pages are absolutely delightful and could be used by moms or kids (or anybody else!) alike.  (Christie asks that her images not be reprinted elsewhere so you have to head over there to see the pages.)

Click on each page to view it and download it via Google docs.  If you have trouble printing, check out her FAQ section for troubleshooting ideas.

I think I’m going to need more ink…

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Altered Artwork!

Here’s a fun project to do for your next art adventure.  Alter some artwork!  Twisted Sifter posted the altered thrift store masterpieces by artists Chris McMahon and Thryza Segal, and the results are so fun! 

You can generally pick up oil and acrylic paintings at thrift stores for next to nothing, and then assign the kids the task of adding in a magical creature or two. 

     

My late father was an artist and he often bought thrift store paintings and just painted over them completely since it was much cheaper than buying new canvases.  I’ve planned for a long time to take some paintings and have the kids just add on to them, but I like this idea even better.  We recently bought a bucketload of framed art and pictures for Victoria’s photography, and now I think we need to go back and get another stash for this project. 

Fun!

 

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Newspaper Acting!

Here’s a fun little activity my girls and I made up yesterday.  Newspaper acting!

I grabbed a copy of our local newspaper and a few junk mail flyers and challenged them to read lines in all different types of voices.  For instance, Victoria read a sentence about a basketball game as if it were an ad for a horror movie.  Anna read a sentence about a city council meeting as if it were heartbreaking news.  I read a sentence about a budget proposal with terrible rage.  🙂

Want to play along?  Just grab some really boring or random reading materials like newspapers, ads and magazines.  Even homework pages would work!

Here’s some suggested voices and styles:

  • As if it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever read
  • Like an action movie preview
  • In the voice of an evil genius
  • With great rage
  • As if you’re heartbroken
  • With a strong, funny accent
  • As if it’s a children’s book for very young kids
  • As if you’re super excited
  • With terrible sorrow
  • As if it’s a line in a romance movie
  • Like you’re terribly scared

We had so much fun doing this!  We were all laughing like crazy and the girls have asked repeatedly to do some more. 

Happy Thursday!

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Yarn Bombing!

Dollar Store Crafts just blogged about the neatest project I’ve heard in a while!  Did you know that International Yarn Bombing Day is coming up on June 11?

Me neither!

I’ve seen photos of a few trees and lamp posts that have been adorned with crocheted and knitted artwork, but apparently there’s a whole movement for this creative outdoor adornment.

Here’s some fun photos from Streetcolor’s Blog.

Here’s some fabulous ones from the Yarnbombing Flickr group.

And here’s some helpful and inspirational links from Dollar Store Crafts.

Of course, if you didn’t have the gumption to yarnbomb a public space, you could also do it on a tree in your own front yard for a similarly sweet sight.

I wonder if we can all learn to knit or crochet by June….


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Finger Knit a Flower!

Do you or your kids finger knit?  I’ve never tried but this video makes it look so easy I think we might do this tomorrow!  Some commenters say this is finger crocheting instead, but no matter what you call it, it’s certainly pretty!

You tube has lots more videos showing how to get started too.

Have fun!

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