Whenever we are doing a nature walk we have one or two kids that keep wondering what’s the point. We tell them that it’s a great way to get air to their brain, make their arms and legs strong and we are getting to know a new place. By the end of the week we see big changes in attitudes towards exercise!
This article quotes many more benefits of getting out and about which relate to the reasons we give our own kids. Getting more air to the brain has lasting effects that can benefit them year round. Kids who go outside have better school performance as they have better cognitive functions. They are more creative as playing outside nurtures imagination. They are also less likely to be depressed or hyperactive as it increases their attention span and they make more friends. Creating the habit to explore outside can lead to a longer life span as they are more likely to grow into active adults!Children who spend time in nature have stronger bones, better eyesight and are overall more fit. They get more vitamin D while playing outdoors.
We would add that children who play outdoors are more aware and committed to their world. They see animals struggle, they see all kinds of people and they become sensitive to nature. What more can you ask? Nature is the real deal!
Some of the best memories of our school years come from field trips, we remember how fun they were. They are so much more than fun as it turns out they can be one of the best ways to learn! Field Trips are meant to be educational by exposing children to experiences that connect to ideas, concepts and subject matter. That first hand experience stimulates interest and retention of concepts. To this relation between experience and concepts we like to add the community dimension.
When we created the themes for our summer camp weeks we were thinking how we could enhance the authentic, first-hand, sensory-based learning that is gained through field trips. Austin’s core is nature, art and technology but it also has a rich history and diversity. What we expect from kids is that by associating what they learn with their own experiences and what they see in their communities, they can begin to develop the capacity to contribute to their community. This is one of the goals of the Association for Experiential Education which explores the education that comes from outside a classroom.
Some other benefits of field trips are the sharpening of observation and perception skills by utilizing their senses. A more positive attitude for learning and creating connections. Field Trips also develop interest in the outdoors and empower students to ask questions, discuss observations and consider past experiences. Field trips remove the competitive factor and the stress of a classroom. Some studies have discovered that whatever is learned through field trips is remembered better than whatever is studied in a formal setting. Even so, field trips have become less common due to limited funding and available time year round. That’s why programs such as ATX Kids Club are important to have around. Who wouldn’t want a field trip every day!
We recently shared a post on how to hook kids on the great outdoors published in the march edition of the Nature conservancy magazine. It quotes an article in the UK that found out that the average child spends less time outdoors than the average prisoner. Most of those hours are spent in front of a screen. Part of the reason seems to be that kids don’t want to be outside but it’s all matter of habit.
Children are very eager to be challenged and to discover new things. These are easily achievable by video games, but nature can offer even better rewards. “In my experience, youth today want the same things we wanted as children: real adventure and the opportunity to discover the world around them”, writes the author of the blog. It is true that it’s getting harder to find programs that connect kids to nature but that’s what ATX Kids Club is all about!
Austin still has some amazing nature pockets within minutes of the city. The more we make use of them, the more the government will realize the need for such spaces and keep funding them. We make use of the trails and parks as part of our weekly programs. Many of our kids have travelled through Cesar Chavez Street and fewer have set foot on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike trail just across the street.
This summer, plan for skill summer camps, but remember the importance of urban and nature camps as well. Let’s get our kids outside!
This week we celebrate the International Women’s Day! It is all about the movement for women’s rights. In the United States it began in New York after a protest by women who made clothes for a living. What initially was a plea for better work conditions has become a fight for equality. The United Nations has given a yearly theme to women’s day for some time now. This year’s theme is Rural and Urban activists transforming women’s lives.