Everyone knows that challenging, varied extracurricular experiences are valuable for kids, but there’s something special about the outdoors. You’ve probably heard that 20-minute nature walks can improve your mood, concentration, and memory. This is true. But, it gets better. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that for kids with ADHD, walks in green spaces were “roughly equal to the peak effects of two typical ADHD medications.” Similarly, researchers at Cornell found that, “Among kids experiencing life stressors (like bullying, or a family move), the children who reported the fewest psychological problems were those who had greater access to nature.” Even when researchers controlled for socioeconomic status, this remained true. Simply put, nature helps kids cope. It helps them develop resilience.
One study looked at third graders in particular, evaluating the effects of lessons taught indoors and outdoors on student concentration. The results left nothing to be doubted: student concentration markedly improved after being outside. The researchers observed that after a lesson in nature, teachers had to redirect their students half as often as they did after a classroom lesson. In other words, being outdoors doubles a child’s ability to concentrate once they come back inside; no small difference.
Talia O’Brien, who is working with third and fourth graders at Arlington, is loving the chance to work with kids outdoors. She says, “I believe teaching the importance of nature and exploring the outdoors is extremely beneficial for children. Summer Dreamers Academy gives children the opportunity to get outside and have fun while living in the city, which most people don’t get to do in their busy lives.” She’s absolutely right.