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 Benefits of nature for child development

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Benefits of nature for child development   Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:34 pm

I thought that this was an interesting study...

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A. Kellert (2002) reviewed the literature on nature and child development and concluded that cognitive, affective, and moral development is impacted significantly and positively by direct contact with nature. By "direct" contact, he means contact with wild nature unmediated by significant human manipulation, in contrast to "indirect" contact (e.g., parks, zoos) or "vicarious contact" which is mediated by technology (e.g., television nature shows or books). See Kahn & Kellert (2002), Chowla, Sobel, Nabhan & Trimble, and others.

B. Kellert & Derr (1998) reviewed programs by Outward Bound, National Outdoor Leadership School, and Student Conservation Assn (N=700+ adolescents), both retrospectively and longitudinally, with surveys, in-depth interviews, observations, and qualitative analysis. There were some differences related to program orientations, but major positive impacts were observed in all three programs. Furthermore, these impacts increased over time following participation. "A large majority" of participants reported the experience as one of the most important in their lives with positive benefits for personality and character development. Specific benefits included self-confidence, self-concept, self-esteem, autonomy, and capacity to cope. There was a clear carry-over of effects from wilderness to urban settings. Results also indicate a strong increase in respect and appreciation for nature. Other, more qualitative, impacts included reports of increases in compassion, wisdom, guidance, and inner peace. See also reviews from Wilderness Research Center at University of Idaho (Hendee, Russell).

C. Edith Cobb conducted a large-scale retrospective study of the role of nature experiences in childhood. She reports positive developmental influences of nature that endure and grow into adulthood.

D. Pets help children develop self-esteem, positive relationships, intimacy, and higher levels of moral reasoning. Pets not only foster responsibility, healthy relationships, and a healthy internal locus of control; they also bring an added element of the natural world into children's lives.

E. The positive effects of nature are strongest in middle childhood (ages 6-12; in modern western cultures at least). While some research indicates that adolescents take a "time out" from nature, Kaplan & Kaplan (2002) argue that nature experiences for adolescents are significant and desirable as long as they also include the particular needs of adolescence, i.e., peer support, autonomy, and the opportunity to develop and demonstrate skill and strength. I would add that wilderness experiences offer opportunities to leave one's family, familiar community, and the roles that go with them, to try on new social roles, and to return with new self-images, behavior potential, and ways of relating. This is especially important during adolescence.

F. Adults report that childhood nature experiences are important and positive. When asked to identify the most significant environment from their childhoods, 96.5 % of a broad sample of adults identified an outdoors environment (Sebba, 1991). It stands to reason that adults who have more direct contact with such an environment would experience better mental health.

G. If nature experiences have positive benefits on child development, do they have benefits for adult development? Given that most conventional theories of psychological development have little to say about development beyond a healthy ego, this question is irrelevant. However, from an expanded view of adult development which extends beyond conventional models of mental health (e.g., transpersonal psychology), this is a legitimate research question. Available research suggests the answer is yes.

It seems that direct contact with nature is good for you. This could explain the positive results with places like the Imus ranch etc...

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PostSubject: Re: Benefits of nature for child development   Sat Jul 07, 2007 3:21 pm

I just got back from Sequoia and Yosemite and I would have to say the study is on track. Working, commuting, and not going out very often really contrast when given more than a week with nature. It was truly invigorating.

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PostSubject: Re: Benefits of nature for child development   Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:40 pm

This is somewhat related and I thought it was interesting...

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Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
FRIDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who spend more time outside -- and away from the television set -- are less likely to develop myopia, the inability to see things clearly at a distance.
Click here to find out more!

The new report, from researchers in Boston, doesn't determine whether too much indoor activity actually causes poor eyesight. And even if it does, researchers haven't pinpointed what the exact mechanism might be.

Still, "it would seem prudent to encourage outdoor activities -- not necessarily sports -- for all growing children and young adults in order to reduce the progression of myopia," said Howard C. Howland, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University.

About a third of Americans suffer from myopia, said study author Jane Gwiazda, director of research at The New England College of Optometry. The rates are much higher in some parts of Asia.

The condition seems to be caused by both genetics and the environment, Gwiazda said. The condition is more common in people who engage in a lot of "near work" due to their jobs, she said.

The study authors gave questionnaires to the parents of 191 children who were at an average age of 13.3 years. Among other things, the researchers asked about the children's time spent using the computer, reading for pleasure and watching TV.

The children's eyesight was tested annually.

The findings were published in the January issue of Optometry and Vision Science.

The children who developed myopia -- also known as nearsightedness -- spent less time in outdoor activities, an average of 8.3 hours a week compared to 12.6 hours among the other children.

Those with myopia also watched more television (12.5 hours vs. 8.4 hours a week).

What's going on? "One possibility is that all the hours spent viewing objects at a distance rather than up close, as happens outdoors, provides a 'stop' signal to block myopia progression," Gwiazda said. "Outdoor exposure also may be beneficial, because sunlight causes the pupil to constrict, resulting in a larger depth of focus -- the range in which objects appear clear -- and less image blur that's associated with myopia development."

In other words, the eye may see more clearly outside in the sunlight and avoid developing myopia.

Looking at things farther away may be another benefit of outdoor activities. "We know a great deal about what causes myopia in animals, including primates," said Howland. "Images that are focused behind the retina cause the eye to grow in length, making the animal more myopic. Generally speaking, one can prevent animals from becoming myopic if they are provided with sufficient opportunity to see distant objects."

In popular culture, bookworms and nerds are often depicted as wearing glasses. Some studies have indeed shown a connection between heavy reading and myopia, Gwiazda said. But the new research doesn't confirm that link.

"In our study, children with more hours of outdoor activity do not necessarily spend less time reading and using computers," Gwiazda said.
http://www.usnews.com/health/family-health/childrens-health/articles/2009/01/30/kids-who-spend-more-time-outdoors-have-better.html

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