A recent study from King’s College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that the elevated rates of myopia, or short-sightedness, may be related to keeping children inside. This new study of over 3000 volunteers found strong correlations between current eyesight and volunteers’ lifetime exposure to sunlight. The research joins a growing body of research indicating that a lack of direct sunlight may reshape the human eye and impair vision.
Nature preschools, or preprimary schools where children spend all or part of their days outdoors, are on the rise in the United States with close to 250 nature preschools open across the country. According to the Natural Start Alliance, a coalition supporting early childhood and environmental education, only a few dozen nature preschools operated in the United States just five years ago. However, some experts see room for improvement in such schools, particularly regarding access for many urban and economically disadvantaged children.
The National Park Service reports that visits to U.S. national parks is on track to surpass 325 million in 2016, breaking the all-time high of 307 million set in 2015. The increased interest is likely due to a major marketing campaign launched by the National Park Service to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2016, including free passes for every fourth-grader and their families. The Parks Service says the increased visitation is good news but it also brings challenges for the Park Service such as overcrowded roads and trails and increasing visitor misbehavior.
In Melbourne, "simulated outdoor environments” in schools— or indoor areas simulating the outdoors— are under debate. Educators cite research establishing the developmental benefits of the outdoors and nature to children in complaints to the Australian Education Union regarding its approval of childcare centers without outdoor space. Proponents of indoor spaces stress the all-season functionality of the approach.
A recent survey shows that Korean kids lead lives that may be too busy for outdoor play. More than 83 percent of 5-year-olds and 36 percent of 2-year-olds in South Korea receive private education, often in the form of tutoring. In some cases, 5-year-olds receive up to four hours of extra classes a day after their regular kindergarten program, revealed data released earlier this week by the Korea Institute of Child Care. In addition, some experts say playgrounds are not stimulating enough for the children, fostering a preference for computer games and mobile phone chatting than outdoor play.
A study conducted by LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health is the first to demonstrate that parents who are concerned about their neighborhoods restrict their children's outdoor play. The study is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Outdoor learning can have a positive impact on children's development but it needs to be formally adopted, a report from UK researchers suggests. The report showed that, although there was a significant body of research that supports outdoor learning in both formal and informal contexts, outdoor learning was likely to remain on the margins of education until the benefits were recognized by policymakers and reflected in policies.
MIT’s Senseable City Lab's new project called Treepedia catalogues the density of the tree canopy in 10 global cities. Treepedia uses information from Google Street View to create what it calls the Green View Index—a rating that quantifies how green a street view looks according to the number of trees it contains. The result is one of the most detailed catalogs of urban greenery available.
A program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland is including nature as part of its public health strategy.
SHINE (Stay Healthy in Nature Everyday) is a partnership with the East Bay Regional Park District and the Regional Parks Foundation which aims to encourage more patients, particularly socioeconomically disadvantaged families,
to access the benefits from contact with nature.
Seattle is in the midst of a more than $700 million plan to redesign its waterfront — aiming to evolve the area beyond its shipping and industrial history into a picturesque destination for locals and tourists alike that connects previously separated parts of town. The plan is one of the biggest Seattle has undertaken since the 1962 World’s Fair, and it involves redesigning 26 blocks of the waterfront with active spaces for events like concerts, as well as extensive green space and a connection to the water.
In Downtown Miami, a pop-up park and promenade project, will transform Biscayne Boulevard into a community gathering space through most of January. Parking lots across the city will host the project, which is meant to give the 90,000 residents of downtown and the more than 235,000 who commute there a vibrant place to enjoy nature.
A group of leading authors, educators and child-development experts is calling on the UK government to introduce national guidelines on the use of screens, amid concern about the impact on children’s physical and mental health. In a letter to the Guardian signed by 40 senior figures, the group calls for a minister for children and urges the government to take immediate action, including a kindergarten stage for three- to seven-year-olds emphasizing social and emotional development and outdoor play.
In an effort to encourage more Delaware children to enjoy the outdoors and outdoor-related activity year-round, the Delaware Children in Nature Coalition will highlight an “Outdoor Theme of the Month” beginning in January 2017. The effort will use the Delaware Children in Nature Outdoor Bill of Rights, a list of 10 “Outdoor Rights,” as a template.
Six Manitoba nonprofits have issued a challenge to the public to make new year's resolutions for the planet to protect the environment and to stay active in 2017. Two organizations, A Rocha Pembina Valley Interpretive Centre and Fort Whyte Alive, prescribe a healthy dose of fresh air for the new year. A Rocha is challenging Manitobans to visit a park or green space in each of the four seasons of the year.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that teachers at schools with a Playworks program reported 43 percent less bullying and exclusionary behavior than teachers at schools without the program. Additionally, 85 percent of staff members in Playworks schools say they see fewer conflicts from recess spilling into classroom time at their schools, and 88 percent say they spend less class time resolving conflicts.
A new census from the Land Trust Alliance reveals that U.S. landowners voluntarily protect more land (and water) than all national parks in the lower 48 states. More than 56 million acres of private land in the United States have been voluntarily conserved across the country, an area representing double the size of all land in national parks across the lower 48 states. The report, called the National Land Trust Census, is released every five years, and suggests that public lands serve a key role in the country's conservation portfolio, helping to fill gaps among higher-profile parks and preserves.
A new report finds that young children and teens are losing anywhere from 10 to 14 hours of sleep a week, putting children at risk of stunted physical growth, poor performance at school, anxiety or depression and potential future health problems like obesity. The report emphasizes the benefits of outdoor time in improving a child's sleep, making children more alert during the day, and tired at night.
A major internal case review by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) has found that many children and young people in Ireland, some as young as five years of age, have unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet. The data is based on an internal case review, carried out in July, of the different cyber issues affecting young people and their families that had been encountered by the children's charity in the previous 18 months.
An Australian boy is challenging his peers to pick the outdoors over screens. As part of a school project, 11-year-old Hunter Barrett undertook a three-day screen-free challenge, which inspired a broader 30 Day Nature Play Challenge in Australia. The challenge encourages children to have a #summer2remember by swapping screen time for green time over the holidays.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced more than $350,000 in funding to engage youth and veterans in hands-on conservation projects on public lands from Big Bend National Park in Texas to North Cascades National Park in Washington State. The grants are part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), an ongoing national effort to prepare the next generation of outdoor stewards by training and employing thousands of America’s young adults to protect, restore and enhance our nation’s public lands and waters.