EDUCATION – Schools, where children spend a significant amount of their time, have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect children with nature. Contact with nature has proven educational and developmental benefits. Historically, schools have planned field trips and arranged for school outreach programs, and schoolyards are often the nearest green spaces in neighborhood. Increasingly across Ohio, schools are being used as Community Learning Centers, making their facilities accessible to the community beyond the school day, seven days a week. This makes them even more valuable as “nearby nature” locations. With 55% of children under the age of six in child care centers, pre-schools and child care centers also play an important role in the effort to reconnect children with nature:
Strategy #7: Require at least 20 minutes of daily unstructured recess.
Recent attempts to require recess in schools via the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children legislation passed this year in Ohio met with failure. Groups representing teachers and school boards were successful in removing that provision from the bill, citing the need for more academic time. Because the focus of the bill was on childhood obesity, educators also felt that schools should not be responsible for solving social problems. The first step in successfully implementing this strategy is to show that recess is helpful to academic performance. There are studies indicating that recess improves classroom behavior. Another study indicates that there is a positive connection between physical activity, concentration and memory. More research is needed on this topic, but most adults who participate in day-long meetings would agree that a break for physical activity increases the ability to concentrate. The Environmental Literacy Plan will include strategies to promote recess and physical education.