LEARN | CONNECT | ACT
Updated: 2 hours 33 min ago
The city of Gary, Indiana is considering a reduction of its total number of parks, while revamping some that have been neglected for a long time. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the parks are being examined to see whether they are actually serving the residents in light of the decreased population of the city. Parks Superintendent McKenya Dilworth said as many as 20 of the city's 57 parks could be allowed to revert to their natural state, adding that any decision would be made in consultation with the council and residents.
New plans are underway in Milwaukee for a new, super-green park intended for communities and families. The park, which will be built on a vacant lot, will be a “storm water park” that is sustainable and eco-friendly. The project is being overseen by the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) through a public-private partnership run by the ECO, which converts vacant lots into healthy green spaces to drive economic development and job creation and increase quality of life. Since the partnership started in 2014, the group has created 30 new pocket parks, orchards, and community gardens from more than 50 vacant lots.
School gardens are on the rise in the United States with more than 7,000 school gardens growing across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm to School census. Organizations and studies report a list of long list of benefits to school gardens including an increase in students' standardized test scores, greater nutrition awareness and reduced symptoms of ADD, ADHD and stress.
A recent poll conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), a network of more than 52,000 park and recreation professionals and advocates, reaffirms that Americans are passionate about the preservation of public lands, such as local, state and national parks, making the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund an even bigger priority for lawmakers and the new administration.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine showed that Americans who use their local parks or participated in recreation programs offered by local park and recreation agencies are more likely to report high levels of self-reported overall health status.The research stems from data collected in 1991 and 2015 as part of a broader look at Americans’ use and perceptions of local parks and recreation services. Both studies were commissioned by the National Recreation and Park Association.
Finland celebrates its 100th anniversary as an independent nation this year by inviting everyone to go outside and take advantage of the country's beautiful nature. The country is promoting a national event called four "Nature Days" (one per season), which are full of events outdoors including skiing, hiking, birdwatching, or swimming. The dates are February 4, May 20, June 17, and August 2nd.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, household pets may have a major influence on child development and could have a positive impact on children’s social skills and emotional well-being. The study, which surveyed 12-year-olds from 77 families who had at least one pet and more than one child in the household, demonstrated lower levels of conflict and greater levels of satisfaction in children who had dogs versus other types of pets.
High schoolers tending to miniature goats; preschoolers pumping water to irrigate gardens; third graders building forts from sticks. Students in a growing number of Atlanta- area schools are heading outdoors to learn as schools are seeing an upsurge in interest in nature-based learning so expose more children to the many benefits of nature.
Minnesota's Thomas Irvine Dodge Nature Center celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Dodge Nature Center, which encompasses over 460 acres, was one of the first nature centers in Minnesota. Its centers and preschool are recognized nationally for environmental education.
First Nations leaders have launched a non-profit to help youth on reserves, engaging them with nature and with their cultural roots. The organization, Paddling With the Cree, takes Kashechewan’s young people on wilderness outings with leaders and elders. Author and journalist Alexandra Shimo and several First Nations leaders decided to found the non-profit organization to try and mitigate some of the ongoing impacts that are affecting First Nations children.
Cities across the United States including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Houston and New Orleans are repurposing and greening vacant urban lots in an effort to cut down on crime and improve mental and physical health for local residents. The efforts include clearing, grading and seeding thousands of vacant lots, believing that empty properties with head-high weeds, scrubby trees, trash and debris are excellent hiding places for guns, drugs and criminal activity. After the initial cleanup, cities partner with neighborhood groups and nonprofits to care for the lots, or in some instances sell them to people who agree to maintain or develop them.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim has found that increasing physical activity in children may prevent depression in later years. Study researchers surveyed parents to assess children's mental health at age 6, then did follow-up interviews with parents and kids at age 8 and 10 to determine whether they had symptoms of depression. Higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at ages 6 and 8 predicted fewer symptoms of major depressive disorder two years later, with every extra hour of such activity linked with a moderate decrease in symptoms.
The United States Forest Service announced that it is modernizing and streamlining its recreation permit process in an effort to encourage use of its land, rather than restrict access. The decision is intended to expand access particularly to groups, to help ensure that future generations stay connected to their public lands.
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.