International News Round Up
The city of San Diego is moving ahead with an $8 million overhaul of Children’s Park. The renovation effort, which is expected to be finished in the summer of 2021, will replace an urban forest area that has been used primarily by homeless people with a number of family-friendly amenities intended to activate the entire space. The project will include amenities such as forest-themed playground equipment, space for vendors and a dog park.
The newly launched Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook is a tool to help legislators and community leaders advance state policies to get kids outside. Highlighting existing and promising policy solutions, the website provides a platform for sharing and advancing new ideas, and connects cross-sector leaders working on statewide policy initiatives. Partners involved in the development of the Playbook include the Children & Nature Network, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, North American Association for Environmental Education, Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and Meridian Institute.
The Growing Green Schoolyards Executive Summary is a new resource featuring initial research findings from a national survey and best practice design principles to continue the momentum in the green schoolyards movement. The resource was produced out of a collaborative partnership PlayCore and the Children & Nature Network, which joined forces to raise awareness and help scale the implementation of green schoolyards.
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.
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 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.
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.