News Center Items by Avery Cleary
This week, members of the US Congress passed The Every Kid Outdoors Act. The bill authorizes the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to administer a pass program to provide free entry for fourth graders and their families to visit our national public lands, waters, and shores. The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
The prevalence of forest schools in Denmark continues to grow, with one in 10 Danish preschools now held outdoors. The country has become such a leader in the forest school movement, that educators visit Denmark from all over the world to learn about the forest school model.
The Discover the Forest campaign, headed by the US Forest Service and Ad Council, is kicking off with the goal of inspiring children to develop an early interest in nature through their local National Forests and trails. The campaign hopes to expose families to the health benefits of being in nature, as well as encourage a lifelong connection to nature.
A new law in France prohibits students of ages three to 15 from using smartphones on school grounds with a few exceptions. Lawmakers hope the ban will remove distractions during class and encourage students to play outside as well.
According to a new survey conducted by the UK’s National Forest, parents would like to see increased outdoor learning as part of the school curriculum. More than half of parents questioned believe increasing use of technology is driving their children away from nature and nearly a third think modern technology is having a negative impact on their ability to interact verbally with people around them.
Several Toronto schools are participating in a pilot project to use the Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) program. Funded by Earth Day Canada, the only organization in Canada licensed to deliver the OPAL program, the program aims to bring back unstructured play and encourage children to use all sorts of “loose parts” – spares tires, ropes, sticks, logs and other castoffs – to build whatever comes into their heads. The program, originally developed in Britain, has expanded to 25 Toronto-area schools this year.
Seattle’s new Yesler Terrace Park is a milestone in the remaking of the community. The 1.8-acre park, built for about $6 million, is located in the heart of a mixed-income redevelopment on property previously occupied by a Seattle Housing Authority. Construction of the park started in 2012 and is expected to last more than 10 years.
A recent study sponsored by Save the Children Bangladesh found that excessive pressure to study, a lack of playgrounds and a perceived insecurity of the outdoors deny children the opportunity to play in the capital city of Dhaka. The study, conducted with 300 children and as many parents of 600 households, was led by Salma Akhter, a sociology professor at Dhaka University. According to the findings, girls play less outdoors than boys out of fear of security, with parents worried about the possibility of girls being sexually harassed.
A partnership between the city of Denver and the private sector has led to the development of state-of-the-art pollution sensor technology to monitor and evaluate air quality in local schools. The real-time, hyper-local air-quality data-monitoring system will enable teachers, administrators, and students to assess the risks of pollution at any given time and take appropriate measures to lessen exposure. The technology will collect, interpret and disseminate data to the community, which can then act on the results in ways that ultimately can benefit not just Denver, but anywhere the technology is used.