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CHILDREN IN NATURE. Jim Byford. PEOPLE AND LAND. A DISCONNECT. “LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS”. By Richard Louv. Problem. Too few children having unstructured play outdoors. MORE THAN AN INTERESTING OBSERVATION. OBESITY. 20% of our children clinically obese (quadrupled since the 1960’s)

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Presentation Transcript
people and land
PEOPLE AND LAND

A DISCONNECT

problem
Problem
  • Too few children having unstructured play outdoors.
obesity
OBESITY
  • 20% of our children clinically obese

(quadrupled since the 1960’s)

  • 36% increase in 2-5 year-olds (1989-99)

40% of 5-8 year-olds – cardiac risk

(Center for Disease Control)

poor fitness
POOR FITNESS
  • 2/3 American children cannot pass basic physical
  • 40% (boys) and 70% (girls) 6-16 years-old cannot do more than 1 pull-up

(President’s council on Fitness and Sports)

adhd attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
ADHD(Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Use of ritalin and dexedrine increased 600% between 1990 and 1995
  • Side Effects

-Sleep disruption

-Depression

-Growth suppression– ½ inch per year

(National Institute of Mental Health)

slide9
ADHD
  • Each hour of TV watched by preschoolers increases by 10% the likelihood of ADHD by age 7.

(Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center – Seattle)

too busy with structured activities
TOO BUSY WITH STRUCTURED ACTIVITIES

Directed Attention =Directed Attention Fatigue

  • Too Much:

-impulsive behavior

-agitation

-irritation

-inability to concentrate

(University of Michigan)

allergies
ALLERGIES
  • Recent increase in children’s allergies connected with less time outdoors (National Geographic—May 2006)
  • Exposure to indoor air pollution, toxic molds, carbon dioxide, and lead dust
  • Allergen level of newer sealed buildings can be as much as 200 times that of older structures
low standardized test scores
LOW STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
  • US Children falling behind in math and science
  • Of 31 countries, US children placed in the middle

(Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development-2003)

ecophobia
ECOPHOBIA
  • Fear of ecological deterioration
  • Classrooms – filled with examples of environmental abuse
  • Lacking direct experience with nature:

- fear of apocalypse

-not joy and wonder

obesity and fitness
OBESITY AND FITNESS

More outdoor play:

= more exercise

= less obesity

= better fitness

slide16
ADHD
  • Two daycare centers:

-In one, children played outside every day

-In another, seldom played outside

-In the first, children had:

    • better motor coordination
    • more able to concentrate

(Swedish researchers)

slide17
ADHD
  • Being close to nature=better attention span

(New York State College of Human Ecology)

slide18
ADHD
  • Even view of green through a window reduces ADHD symptoms

(University of Illinois Human Environmental Research Lab)

crime rate and drug abuse
CRIME RATE AND DRUG ABUSE

Often associated with:

  • Boredom
  • Desperation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor social skills
play areas
PLAY AREAS
  • When dominated by play structures:

-social hierarchy based on physical competence

  • After green, grassy area with shrubs:

-more fantasy play

-social hierarchy based more on

      • Language skills
      • Creativity
      • Inventiveness
standardized test scores
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
  • Children on asphalt--more interrupted play
  • Green playgrounds--children created long-term play that continued day to day
  • 20% higher standardized test scores

(Swedish Study)

standardized test scores1
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
  • Video games/computer software-children use creativity of others
  • Unstructured outdoor play:

-forts out of weed fields

-sailboats with leaves and sticks

-creativity, reasoning, physics principles

standardized test scores2
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES

In an effort to increase standardized test scores, school leaders have:

  • Cut out play time
  • Turned playgrounds into parking lots
  • Spent more money on brick and mortar classrooms, and computer technology
standardized test scores3
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
  • Finland outscored 31 other countries
    • 1st place in literacy
    • Top 5 in Math and Science
  • U.S. in the middle of the pack
standardized test scores4
STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES

Finland:

  • Children do not start school until age 7
  • No special classes for gifted students
  • 15 minutes unstructured outdoor play for every 45 minutes of class time
  • Moved substantial amount of classroom time outdoors
other benefits
OTHER BENEFITS
  • Accentuate the senses--a child’s first line of self defense
  • Psychological survival skills--help them detect real danger
  • Self-confidence
other benefits1
OTHER BENEFITS
  • Sense of place—larger fabric on which our lives depend
    • Earth
    • Water
    • Air
    • Other living things
  • Can contemplate infinity and eternity
  • Stress reduction
reason for the problem
REASON FOR THE PROBLEM
  • Halloween terrorism (candy/razor blades/drugs)
  • 76 stories from 1958-1984

-New York Times

-Chicago Tribune

-L.A. Times

-Fresno Bee

  • No actual occurrences

(California State, Fresno – Sociology Dept.)

reason for the problem1
REASON FOR THE PROBLEM
  • Fear of abduction

missing children:

    • Not 4000 per year as some missing children organizations claim
    • But, between 200 & 300
    • Most abductors not strangers, but family members or someone the family knew

(Univ. New Hampshire and U.S. Justice Dept.—1990)

reason for the problem2
REASON FOR THE PROBLEM
  • Fear of outdoor dangers (Biophobia):

-biting insects

-spiders

-snakes

-lightning

-poison ivy

  • Fear of liability
reason for the problem3
REASON FOR THE PROBLEM
  • GPS bracelet
  • Reduces Children’s survival skills
    • Ability to recognize:
      • Dangerous people
      • Dangerous conditions
reason for the problem4
REASON FOR THE PROBLEM
  • Fear of traffic
    • -Dogs kept in a pen – greater traffic risk than those which grow up road-wise
what can we do
WHAT CAN WE DO
  • Recognize connection of unstructured outdoor play with children’s :
    • Physical health
    • Mental health
    • Intellectual ability
    • Safety
what can we do1
WHAT CAN WE DO?

Critical to Child Development and Health, Yet not mentioned in:

  • Child Development literature
  • Medical journals
  • Mainstream educational journals
  • Parenting magazines
what can we do2
WHAT CAN WE DO?
  • Educate:
    • Parents
    • Teachers/University Education Professionals
    • Medical and Health Professionals
    • Child Development Professionals
  • Build more natural spaces:
    • City parks
    • Schools
    • Homes/neighborhoods
what can we do3
WHAT CAN WE DO?
  • As individuals:
  • Remember your first pleasant outdoor experience
  • Take children outdoors
    • One or more
    • Your children
    • Your neighbor’s children
    • Your grandchildren
  • My experience with my grandchildren