International News Round Up
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new study published in the American Psychologist found that children who live in walkable neighborhoods have higher levels of upward economic mobility. Conducted by psychologists at Columbia University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the study looks at the effect of growing up in a walkable community on the economic mobility of children. Data cover more than 9 million Americans born between 1980 and 1982 and gauges the probability that children from households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution will reach the top fifth by age 30.
Green schoolyard projects are underway across the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district. A collaboration between MPS and several partners, the green schoolyard projects include a host of features intended to divert rainwater from local sewers and filter it before it makes its way into Lake Michigan including permeable surfaces, massive underground cisterns, native plants and bioswales.
REI Co-op Expands Efforts to Understand the Link Between Time Spent in Nature and Human Wellbeing with a New Study
REI Co-op will provide funding for a long-term national study exploring the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of spending time outdoors. The study will be conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In the first phase of the study, researchers will hold a series of focus groups to understand traits and attitudes that influence individuals’ nature-seeking behaviors.
The Well Being Trust (WBT) and 25 leading US nongovernmental organizations have partnered to form the Well Being Alliance (WBA). The Well Being Alliance engages leadership from across the country to confront challenges and enrich health and well-being in a way that is inclusive of everyone. It is committed to accelerating systemic change towards improved intergenerational well-being outcomes for all in America. The Children & Nature Network is honored to be a partner organization in the WBA.
REI is once again urging its customers to #OptOutside on Black Friday, but this year the co-op is also encouraging people to save the environment. In addition to this year’s #OptOutside campaign, the chain is introducing its “opt to act” campaign to leave the outdoors better than they found it when they #OptOutside on Black Friday.
A new U.K. poll of 1,500 parents with children under the age of 11 revealed a concerning disconnect between children and the natural world. Nearly four in ten parents feel that modern kids are less connected with the natural world than previous generations, and 86 percent believe their child would be happier if they played outside more often. According to the findings, 44 per cent of urban kids have never swam in the sea and 55 percent have never climbed a tree in a forest.
Dr. Clare Quigley, an opthalmologist at Galway University Hospital, conducted a study researching the lifestyles and health of 8,568 nine-year-olds. The study results found a strong connection between myopia and a sedentary lifestyle. Until now myopia has been seen mainly as a genetic condition but new research is now able to not only confirm, but quantify, how ‘nearwork’ can damage children’s vision.
A recent survey of more than 2,000 parents and children throughout the UK, Europe, and Japan found that children spend between 15-20 hours indoors on an average weekend. The survey, conducted by the company Clip ‘n Climb, also found that 90% of parents surveyed would like their children to play outside more.
Kaboom, a nonprofit that has helped build 3,100 playgrounds in schools and parks across the U.S., is conducting an equity study in Baltimore to ensure any new playgrounds it installs are built where they are needed most rather than just in places that apply. Focusing its efforts on schools and prioritizing racial equity, Kaboom aims “to make sure every kid has access to a safe, great play space.”
Together with a number of local nonprofits, the city of Austin, Texas is working to improve park equity with a number of newly completed projects spanning sections of the city that have historically been split along racial and socioeconomic lines. Improving park access is a goal of the city and its parks and recreation department, which has focused on equity in a number of its policies and departments.
Children in Canada are playing outside less than previous generations with a recent Statistics Canada report finding that children between the ages of five and 17 had an average of three hours of screen time per day. Experts also warn that children have a much more constricted range of how far they wander from their home. In response, some experts have formed a new group, Outdoor Play Canada, that aims to get kids spending more time outside.