International News Round Up

A Sydney Council Plans to Shut down Streets to Allow Children to Play Outside

A Sydney council has proposed a plan to shut down streets so that children can spend more time outdoors. The Inner West Council intends to launch a “play streets” trial in order to address the increase of young families moving closer to the city and to provide children with opportunities for safe and fun outdoor play space for kids in a home environment.

Hong Kong Scientist Develops Tool to Measure Kids’ Connectedness to Nature

In an effort to measure how children in Hong Kong, one of the densest urban settings in the world, are faring in relation to nature, researchers from the University of Hong Kong and the University of Auckland surveyed 493 families with children between the ages of 2 and 5. Among the survey findings were that parents who saw their child had a closer connection with nature had less distress, less hyperactivity, fewer behavioral and emotional difficulties, and improved pro-social behavior. Also of note, children who took greater responsibility towards nature had fewer peer difficulties.

Expert Backs 20mph Bill to Help Combat Scotland’s ‘Obesity Epidemic’

A reduction of the speed limit to 20mph in all urban areas has been proposed by a Member of the Scottish Parliament in an effort to reverse Scotland’s pediatric obesity epidemic. Green MSP Mark Ruskell believes the measure would help encourage more families to get outdoors with their youngsters and take part in physical activities, adding that slower traffic would help make parents feel more confident about allowing children to play outside. In 2017, more than a quarter (26%) of Scottish youngsters aged between two and 15 were at risk of being overweight, the Scottish Health Survey showed – with a total of 13% at risk of obesity.

Four in Ten Children in U.K. Are Breathing “Toxic Air” At School

A national study shows that four in ten children in primary schools in the U.K. are breathing toxic air that breaches guidelines form the World Health Organization. The investigation indicates that 3.7 million students are being exposed to high levels of pollution on a daily basis, with some of the worst findings among the youngest students. Experts warn the pollution levels are placing children at increased risk of lifelong conditions including asthma and other breathing difficulties.

Chinese Students Could Be Playing Games With Their Eyesight

In an effort to reduce the incidence of myopia in children, China’s government has frozen approval for new video games. In addition, it has introduced restrictions on children’s screen time, limiting them to one hour a day. By 2020, it is estimated that half of the population in China, or around 700 million people, will suffer from myopia. Experts link lifestyle changes, including increased use of electronics and more time indoors, to the alarming health trend.

Government Shutdown Affects U.S. National Parks

The partial government shutdown is starting to take a toll on some of America’s National Parks. Parks that have stayed open are doing so without full park service staff, impacting trash collection, public information, restrooms and other services not available during the shutdown.

Chicago Schools Selected for Green Schoolyard Transformations in 2019

Several Chicago schools will be transformed with green schoolyards next year. The schools were selected earlier this month for participation in Space to Grow, an initiative that transforms Chicago schoolyards with the goal of providing kids in low-income neighborhoods with safe spaces to play. The program is aimed at improving outdoor learning spaces, expanding access to community green space, growing school gardens and addressing flooding in the area.

Grants to Help Get Kids Outside in Washington State

The state of Washington is making $1.5 million in grants available to programs that help to get young people outdoors in the state. The grants are part of the No Child Left Inside program, which aims to give at-risk children opportunities to experience the outdoors. The program is funded by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and administered by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.

Landmark Study Looks at How Screen Time Affects Kids’ Brains

The National Institutes of Health began a $300-million study to examine the effects of screen time on the developing brains of children. Using MRI scans, the NIH researchers examine changes in brain structure among children who use smartphones and other screen devices. The first batch of results from the study shows that kids who spent more than two hours per day on screens scored lower on language and thinking tests.

Raahgiri Day Celebrates Its Fifth Birthday

Raahgiri Day, India’s sustained car‐free event which started as a small initiative and has since blossomed into a national movement, celebrates its fifth anniversary. Every Sunday, in over 70 cities in India, streets are closed to all motorized vehicles until noon. The street closures encourage people to walk, cycle, exercise, and reclaim their streets for safer roads, cleaner air, increased physical activity and community building. The event has helped change perceptions of public space in India.

Italian Education Reform? Just Look Outside

As Italy’s traditional public schools face a myriad of structural and attendance challenges, the movement to take education outdoors is growing in the country. Dozens of schools in the country have adopted the forest school approach, and even the public school system has shown interest in the novel approach to childhood education.

Grand Rapids Schools to Offer Outdoor Education to All Students

Grand Rapids Public Schools announced plans to pilot an initiative that will create outdoor education experiences for all students beginning in the 2019-20 school year. The outdoor education pilot is a collaborative partnership with multiple organizations committed to environmental education and access to the outdoors, including C&NN’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative. The pilot is funded by a three-year grant and enables four teachers at each grade level to work together to develop an outdoor-based curriculum.

Scotland Pledges Healthy Meals and Outdoor Play for Pre-school Children

Every child enrolled in a government-funded early learning and childcare facility in Scotland will receive a free healthy meal and access to outdoor play sessions. The plans, set out by the Scottish government, will be required of certain providers beginning in August 2020. Developed in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the change is in an effort to transform the way early learning and childcare are delivered.

Using the Outdoors As a Classroom: Forest School Approach Being Explored in Kenora

A public elementary school in Ontario, Canada is working towards accreditation as a Forest School. While Keewatin Public School follows the provincial curriculum, the outdoor environment will serve as the classroom often and students will do much of their learning outside. Keewatin Public School is also preparing to unveil a new outdoor learning space, based on the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire, to help it achieve its Forest School accreditation.

Neighborhoods With More Green Space May Mean Less Heart Disease

According to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, people who live in leafy, green neighborhoods may have a lower risk of developing heart disease and strokes. Study researchers from the University of Louisville collected blood and urine samples from over 400 people of varying ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels over five-years to assess the impact of neighborhood greenspaces on individual-level markers of stress and cardiovascular disease risk.


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