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News Center Items by Erik Shonstrom

Researchers Place $6 Trillion Value On Mental Health Benefits Provided By Protected Areas

A team of researchers in Australia looked at the mental health benefits of being in nature, placing a dollar figure on the mental health benefits. They did so by calculating what they call “quality-adjusted life years,” which measured a person’s ability to carry out the activities of daily life free from pain and mental disturbance. The team of ecologists, psychologists, and economists say that protected areas such as national parks around the world provide $6 trillion in benefits.

Kids from Low-income Families Suffer as Designated Play Spaces Remain Scarce and Streets Unsafe in India

Forty percent of schools in India do not have a playground, with the number rising as high as 70 percent in some states, according to surveys by the government. The lack of outdoor play spaces appears to have a harmful effect on children’s health. A recent survey of 85 cities across India revealed that 40 percent of children do not have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Most caregivers surveyed hope for safe places for their children to play near their homes rather than a single park, a 20-minute walk away.

Kaleidoscope Becomes First in the Country to License Outdoor Preschool

Washington State now offers the first licensed full-day, outdoor preschool in the nation. Kaleidoscope Forest Preschool on Orcas is a preschool that takes place entirely outdoors in all weather conditions. In 2017, the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families launched a 4-year pilot program to develop official requirements that all licensed outdoor preschools must follow. Until now, no outdoor preschools in the United States were licensed, which meant there were no industry standards, and they couldn’t offer full-day programs, an important factor for many working families. Unlicensed outdoor preschools also can’t offer state financial assistance to families.

UNICEF Canada Puts Children’s Rights at the Heart of New Brand Campaign

UNICEF Canada has launched a new campaign, The Right to a Childhood, that advocates for children’s rights and challenges Canadians to support its global efforts to ensure every child grows up in a safe and supportive environment. The campaign highlights many of the rights and freedoms that allow children to be children as are outlined in The Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among those rights is the right to play outside without fear.

Efforts Underway to Share School Parks With the Community

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a new wave of projects combining outdoor classrooms and green spaces in neighborhoods that lack park access are underway across the city. Working with city government and other agencies, Grand Rapids Public Schools is working to strategically enhance school parks and playgrounds in parts of the city that lack sufficient green spaces. C&NN’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) team (an initiative co-led with the National League of Cities) extended technical assistance to the effort, supporting cities in raising the visibility of city-school partnerships for green schoolyards as a means of creating equitable access to nature. Similar efforts are underway in Austin, Texas where a construction bond passed in 2017 set up a requirement for outdoor learning space anytime a new school is built or an existing building is renovated.

Survey: School Children Have Too Much Phone Time, Not Enough Play Time

Released on Outdoor Classroom Day, a new national survey from the University of New South Wales has found that an overwhelming majority of Australians (nearly 92%) believe smartphones and other media have reduced the physical activity levels and outdoor playtime of children. In addition, an almost identical number of people responded that play helps children build skills like collaboration, self-control and problem solving that are required for the changing future.

A ‘Nature Hour’ Should Be Part of the School Curriculum Every Day, Say the Wildlife Trusts

The UK-based organization Wildlife Trusts is calling for every child in the UK to spend one hour outside in nature, every day, as part of the school curriculum. Their recommendation is based on a recent study commissioned by the organization in which researchers at the Institute of Education at UCL looked into the effects of regular outdoor activities on children’s wellbeing. The study followed a group of over 450 primary school children aged eight or nine-years-old and found that outdoor play has major benefits for the development of young children.

Australia’s Biggest Outdoor Classroom Day Led by Nature Play WA

A record number of children in Australia participated in Outdoor Classroom Day this week. Now in its third year, Outdoor Classroom Day is a worldwide movement where lessons are held outside to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. The Australian campaign was co-ordinated by Nature Play WA, the State’s leading body dedicated to increasing the time children spend in nature and unstructured play outdoors. A record 308,000-plus Australian students took part in the WA-led initiative.

STAGES OF NATURE CONNECTION: Three Steps to Better Health

Agrowing body of research tells us that a connection to nature offers us a host of physical and mental health benefits. Most of us could improve our connection with nature. The good news is that doing so is fun— and simple. Just 30 minutes per day, a couple of...
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