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The Natural World as a Resource for Learning and Development: From Schoolyards to Wilderness

The Natural World as a Resource for Learning and Development: From Schoolyards to Wilderness
Children, and humans across the lifespan, are increasingly losing contact with nature. Many live in highly developed settings with relatively few natural elements or views; others have access to some forms of nature but spend time indoors. What are the consequences of this shift for children –– their academic achievement, what they know and don’t know, their values and abilities, and who they become? And what are the consequences for the rest of us?

Increasing evidence suggests that the natural world may be a powerful resource for learning and development. “Contact with nature” ranging from wilderness vacations, to catching frogs in a drainage ditch, to doing homework with a view of trees is increasingly tied to positive outcomes. These discoveries raise the tantalizing potential of identifying low-cost ways to address major societal challenges: boosting academic achievement, reducing the achievement gaps between different ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and countering the rise in various mental and physical disorders.

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