New nature research shows...

Jumping stumps on PIC Nature Playground

August Message from Deb Green


I’ve recently returned from a trip that took me north to New Hampshire and south to North Carolina. The outdoors and nature were at the center of my travels.

I was invited to New Hampshire to participate in the closing plenary panel discussion of the Natural Start Alliance annual conference. I spoke about the work we do at PIC to connect children (and teachers) with nature. 

I shared the ways we bring natural elements into our classrooms, and the transformation of our outdoor nature playground. I emphasized the time PIC children spend outside in sand, dirt, and mud, as well as gardening, jumping from tree stumps, listening to stories, or just watching clouds in the sky. 

I highlighted our efforts to introduce nature-based learning to teachers from other programs and future early childhood educators, and of our plans to open the PIC Urban Nature Preschool at Smith Playground next fall. I fielded questions from others interested in doing similar work, and learned of more ways that educators are making this happen across the country. 

New research provides more and more reasons why children need to spend more time and take risks outdoors. Programs such as Forest Fridays, where kindergartners in public schools spend a day each week in the woods, are spreading throughout the country...Philadelphia included.

I am inspired to see that the nature movement in education is growing so rapidly. 

I’ve returned with new ideas for our teachers, such as ways to incorporate natural materials into outdoor art projects, and nature activities that can increase the self-regulation of children. As an aside, new research shows that self-regulation skills in children (i.e. focus and  attention, control of emotions, perseverance, etc.) have proven to be a higher predictor of school success than any IQ score, or literacy or math competencies.

While I was primarily focused on nature and children, it was not lost that research also shows the benefits of time in nature for adults. My recent travels through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina reminded me of this. My daily doses of  waterfalls, wildflowers, and woods were a continual reminder that I truly feel rejuvenated and refreshed when I am surrounded by nature.  

With hopes that everyone finds their own ways of rejuvenation and renewal this August. 

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