Finland celebrates its 100th anniversary as an independent nation this year by inviting everyone to go outside and take advantage of the country’s beautiful nature. The country is promoting a national event called four “Nature Days” featuring one Nature Day per season, promoting outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, birdwatching, swimming and more.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, household pets may have a major influence on child development and could have a positive impact on children’s social skills and emotional well-being. The study, which surveyed 12-year-olds from 77 families who had at least one pet and more than one child in the household, demonstrated lower levels of conflict and greater levels of satisfaction in children who had dogs versus other types of pets.
High schoolers tending to miniature goats; preschoolers pumping water to irrigate gardens; third graders building forts from sticks. Students in a growing number of Atlanta-area schools are heading outdoors to learn as the area is seeing an upsurge in interest in nature-based learning.
Minnesota’s Thomas Irvine Dodge Nature Center celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Dodge Nature Center, which encompasses over 460 acres, was one of the first nature centers in Minnesota. Its centers and preschool are recognized nationally for environmental education.
First Nations leaders have launched a non-profit to help youth on reserves, engaging them with nature and with their cultural roots. The organization, Paddling With the Cree, takes Kashechewan’s young people on wilderness outings with leaders and elders. Author and journalist Alexandra Shimo and several First Nations leaders decided to found the non-profit organization to try and mitigate some of the ongoing impacts that are affecting First Nations children.
Cities across the United States including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Houston and New Orleans are repurposing and greening vacant urban lots in an effort to cut down on crime and improve mental and physical health for local residents. The efforts include clearing, grading and seeding thousands of vacant lots, believing that empty properties with head-high weeds, scrubby trees, trash and debris are excellent hiding places for guns, drugs and criminal activity. After the initial cleanup, cities partner with neighborhood groups and nonprofits to care for the lots, or in some instances sell them to people who agree to maintain or develop them.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim has found that increasing physical activity in children may prevent depression in later years. Study researchers surveyed parents to assess children’s mental health at age 6, then did follow-up interviews with parents and kids at age 8 and 10 to determine whether they had symptoms of depression. Higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at ages 6 and 8 predicted fewer symptoms of major depressive disorder two years later, with every extra hour of such activity linked with a moderate decrease in symptoms.
The United States Forest Service announced that it is modernizing and streamlining its recreation permit process in an effort to encourage use of its land, rather than restrict access. The decision is intended to expand access particularly to groups, to help ensure that future generations stay connected to their public lands.