International News Round Up
Researchers from the University of South Australia found that nature play positively impacts the health and development of children ages two to 12. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that nature play improved children’s levels of physical activity, health-related fitness, motor skills, learning, and social and emotional development. It also showed that nature play may deliver improvements in cognitive and learning outcomes, including children’s levels of attention and concentration, punctuality, settling in class (even after play), constructive play, social play, as well as imaginative and functional play.
The findings of a study of indigenous people in southern Chile challenge Western assumptions about the value of spending time outdoors to help children regulate their emotions. The study surveyed 271 parents and teachers in southern Chile, approximately half of which were Mapuche, an indigenous people of the region. Researchers found that the Mapuche parents believe children should respect, but not fear, nature and that nature can help children cope with sadness in a positive way.
In Baltimore, local councilor Ryan Dorsey seeks to change a law that bans children from playing outdoors in the city. Dorsey aims to repeal a key element of the city code which makes it unlawful for any person to ‘play ball, fly a kite or throw a stone or other object or missile while in any street, alley, lane or other public thoroughfare’.
A new study suggests that physically and psychologically reconnecting with nature can be beneficial for human health and well-being, while at the same time encouraging individuals to act in ways that protect the health of the planet. Conducted by researchers at the University of Plymouth, Natural England, the University of Exeter and University of Derby, the study is the first to investigate, within a single study, the contribution of both nature contact and connection to human health, well-being and pro-environmental behaviors.
The Real Play Coalition, a global play rights alliance founded by National Geographic, The Lego Foundation and IKEA, says society has an obligation to reclaim play in cities because of the critical role of play in child development and learning. The coalition published this conclusion is a new report, “Reclaiming Play in Cities – The Real Play Coalition Approach,” which reviews the evidence around learning through play, along with the impact of city and urban environments on children’s access to play and their overall development. The report recommends cities adopt less ‘passive’ policies, urging them to be more proactive in prioritizing play for children’s benefit.
Boston’s Franklin Park Is Poised for $28 Million in Upgrades — and the City Wants Ideas on How to Spend the Money
The city of Boston will invest $28 million in improving its 500-acre Franklin Park, and is looking to city residents for guidance on aspects such as inclusivity and access. The park is the city’s largest outdoor space and is located in a racially diverse area of the city. The planning process for the upgrade will bring together ecologists, landscape architects, planners, and community engagement experts to build a plan for an engaging and diverse Franklin Park.
A new report from the City Parks Alliance showcases seven U.S. cities that are leading the way in using their budgets to fund parks more equitably. As previous studies have found that city residents with lower incomes are less likely to find green space nearby in their neighborhoods, the report gives recommendations for using park funding to improve equity in city parks systems using data-driven approaches.
The city of Atlanta has taken a step closer to its commitment to providing all residents with green and equitable space with the recent acquisition of nearly 13 acres of green space intended to become a new park. Officials say it’s one of the largest acquisitions of green space ever in Southwest Atlanta. While Atlanta claims abundant green space, some areas of the city are deficient in public parkland.
The Association of Play Industries (API) has launched a new initiative aimed at getting children outdoors and using public playgrounds over the winter. The new initiative builds on the API’s “Play Must Stay” campaign, which has shown that parents are becoming increasingly concerned with the steep decline in public playgrounds.
People in the US are spending less time outdoors, according to a new 2019 Outdoor Foundation study, with children participating in 15 percent fewer outdoor activities in 2018 than they did six years before. The study found that nearly half of the US population does not participate in any outdoor recreation, with only 17.9 percent heading outdoors out at least once a week in 2018. The study suggests barriers like work, technology, and cost of entry prevent individuals from playing outside.
Two million trees may be planted in UK cities and towns under a new development and planning framework that calls for a ‘fast track for beauty.’ An independent commission set up to advise the UK government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new homes and neighborhoods made the recommendation in a new report. One of the suggestions the report makes is the planting of ‘one fruit tree per house’ as well as the introduction of orchards in cities and urban areas to reconnect children with nature and their food.
A research team recently looked at the needs of apartment-dwelling families in Australia, finding that such families have an even greater need for local nature due to limited and confining space within apartment complexes. The researchers point out that, as the number of families living in apartments continues to increase, apartment housing is not meeting the needs of Australian families.
A new draft report from the Oregon Governor’s Task Force on the Outdoors recommends efforts to reach out to minority groups about outdoor recreation and make state parks more accessible to people with disabilities. To encourage more diversity, the report proposes minority communities should have a hand in land management planning as well as hiring more diverse people in state agencies. Other recommendations included creating a unified Oregon Outdoors Pass that would replace multiple existing passes.
Over the last five years, Utah’s Outdoor Recreation Grant program has invested approximately $10 million into 155 projects across the state, dedicating even more resources toward the program. Created to help communities around the state fund outdoor recreation infrastructure to help drive tourism, the program has funded the construction of new hiking and mountain biking trails, campsites, boat ramps, multi-use paved paths and much more.
A massive decline in mainly urban playgrounds across the UK led the Association of Play Industries (API) to warn the country’s political leaders that they must take measures to reverse this trend, which contributes to the ‘inactivity crisis’ among children. API representatives say the massive decline in public playgrounds is a public health issue and that, unless these playgrounds are reinstated and a commitment made to protect community playgrounds, children will continue to stay indoors on their screens at great cost to their physical and mental health.