Is Nature Valuable?

It absolutely is at The New School Montessori. I took advantage of the opportunity to spend some time in the woods today. Not the woods that you’ll find at a local city park or out around the I275 loop, the ones right here at our very own TNSM. It made me ask myself, and now I ask you, are there any other schools within the Greater Cincinnati area that provide both a typical playground setting and an atypical playground setting for their children to grow in? I’m certain there are schools that offer the former but I definitely can’t recall the latter. Further, and regardless of which is found, how many schools allow their children to use them because they place equal emphasis on the value of outdoor play and classroom academics? I do know the answer to this one, both from direct experience and continued conversation with colleagues. I do know for certain that not many schools do afford their children much in the way of outdoor play as the need for daily drills, testing and high test scores don’t allow time for such non-academic endeavors.

My words here are sincere and not meant to cause argument. They are intended to motivate instead, to start a conversation so that we can each better understand the value of one simple thing that makes a big difference for each child here, the woods. Providing good time for each child, aged 3-12, to play in the natural settings that flank both sides of the Mansion is essential to us living our philosophy and practicing our method. Maria Montessori was about children first and foremost, and her ideas did start a movement that truly supports everything about a child’s development. Yes, academics in the classroom are important for a child’s intellectual development but so too are nature and play, for they help to further a child’s ability when he/she gets in that classroom. A classroom can’t do it alone.

You’ll find some research below that I gathered from the internet when I searched “benefits,” “children” and “in nature.” This Top Ten list comes from an article titled “Benefits for Children of Play in Nature.” Enjoy them. They’re tasty.

1. Play in outdoor environments stimulates all aspects of child development more readily than indoor environments (Moore & Wong 1997).

2. Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001).

3. Exposure to natural environments improves children’s cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills (Pyle 2002).

4. When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor, et al. 1998, Fjortoft 2000).

5. Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain 2001).

6. Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb 1977, Louv 1991).

7. Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other (Moore 1996).

8. Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children (Moore 1986, Bixler et al. 2002).

9. Outdoor environments are important to children’s development of independence and autonomy (Bartlett 1996).

10. Nature buffers the impact of life’s stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits (Wells & Evans 2003).

posted by Eric Dustman

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