Nature is good for you. Article round-up!

Over the past few months, it’s as though we’ve made a big discovery. A pestle of articles about Why Nature is Good For Us has appeared in major national media outlets.


In 2016, we hope you can do something to get kids outside. In the interest of motivating you to action, we’ve put together a nice little reading list for you. Enjoy!

Nadra Kareem Nittle. Math in the Garden: Are School Gardens the New Classrooms? The Atlantic. October 15, 2015.

Jessica Leahy. Teach Kids to Daydream. Mental downtime makes people more creative and less anxious. The Atlantic. October 16, 2013.

Why Adults have to Stop Trying So Hard to Control How Children Play. The Washington Post. December 11, 2015.

Tim Walker. The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland. Forget the Common Core, Finland’s youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom. The Atlantic. October 1, 2015.

Florence Williams. This Is Your Brain on Nature. National Geographic. January 2016.

Take a Hike for Health: Small Doses of the Outdoors Make a Big Difference. The Seattle Times. December 3, 2015.

Exposure to Nature May Reduce Crime, Strengthen Communities. Huffington Post. December 3, 2015. (From the journal Bioscience.)

Seeing Green: The Importance of Nature for Our Health. Mother Earth News. December 2015/January 2016.

Gayle Worland. Celebrate a Wacky Winter Outdoors. Wisconsin State Journal. January 1, 2016.

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City of Madison selected for National Leadership Academy to Connect Children to Nature

Monday, October 5, 2015 – 3:06pm

Madison, WI– The National League of Cities (NLC) and Children & Nature Network have selected Madison to participate in the Connecting Children to Nature Leadership Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah this October. The leadership academy will provide city officials with the skills and knowledge to take up new or expanded leadership roles in improving access to nature in their communities.

Mary Michaud with Public Health Madison & Dane County, Alder Rebecca Kemble, and City Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp visit the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City.

Mary Michaud with Public Health Madison & Dane County, Alder Rebecca Kemble, and City Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp visit the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, City of Madison Alder Rebecca Kemble, Madison Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp, and Public Health Madison & Dane County Policy Director Mary Michaud, will represent Madison. They will learn about promising practices and strategies for connecting children to nature. Participants will work with national experts, attend workshops, conduct field visits and engage in peer learning with city leaders from the seven other cities who have been selected for the leadership academy.

“Kids too often do not have experience associated with this incredible natural world around us,” said National League of Cities President Ralph Becker, mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. “This effort to connect kids to nature means there will be less screen time for kids and more time spent exploring the great outdoors.”

Benefits for increasing young people’s access to nature include improved health outcomes, such as lower rates of childhood obesity, as well as stronger academic skills and increased opportunities for social and emotional learning.

“Madison’s participation in the Leadership Academy will help us take advantage of our city’s incredible human and natural assets,” said Alder Kemble. “We look forward to bringing back approaches that benefit youth who don’t normally spend time connecting to nature.”

Following the leadership academy, Madison will receive an invitation to apply for planning and implementation grants to support the city’s programs and initiatives focused on connecting children to nature. Additionally, Madison will have the opportunity to join the new NLC Children and Nature Learning Network, which will provide ongoing opportunities for city leaders to learn and receive support from nationally recognized experts in the field and city peers.

The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.

Mary Michaud, 608-280-1461

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Save the date! Design workshop for nature-based play

Register now! Simply send an email to Justin Svingen, with: Your name, your organization (if applicable), whether you need child care, and how many children you’ll bring.Design for nature-based play: Flyer for May 9 event Sponsored through a prevention grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Register now! Simply send an email to Justin Svingen, with: Your name, your organization (if applicable), whether you need child care, and how many children you’ll bring.

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Cornell study: School gardens boost physical activity

A recent study from Cornell University compared twelve elementary schools in Upstate New York. Students in schools with school gardens were physically active an average of ten more minutes a week than their counterparts without school gardens.


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Learning outdoors: Powerful voices from around the world

Wondering how to achieve multiple goals using our natural assets of outdoor space and the proclivity of kids to learn through engaged learning, play and exploration?

This video, produced by the International Green Schoolyards Alliance, features leaders from around the globe talking about the benefits of green schoolyards.

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Children need movement to learn, develop and grow

How many times have you watched a child sit in a classroom chair, fighting the urge to move? It strikes a visceral chord in many of us who remember that awful tension that crept up through your neck and out through your arms. Sometimes it felt like you wanted to scream.


A recent article describes how school settings have continued to restrict movement in children and outlines why heavy gross motor play is essential to overall development.

It turns out that the strong, undeniable urge to move that we all remember helps children get what they need every day. Movement through play–especially play rich in sensory input–is one of the primary means for children to learn and achieve appropriate developmental milestones.

How can we better understand and address the ways our school schedules, environments and adult-centric views limit the opportunity for children to get what they need?

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Ever heard of place-based education? Now you have.

Imagine you take a group of fourth graders out into the neighborhood around their school. You begin to tell them about the animals that live in the neighborhood. At least three hawk species, four owl species, anyIMG_6430 number of migratory songbirds, and a world of trees just waiting to be identified. You tell the kids that if they followed the path of rain water that runs into the storm sewer, they would wind up in Lake Mendota.

It’s hilly, and kids are winded after walking up a big hill. Old red and white oaks reach out over ranch homes, dwarfing locusts and maples planted when the homes went in.

“Flying squirrels call those oaks home.” That gets them. The questions start popping. “Where do the squirrels sleep? How do they fly?”

“What do the hawks and owls eat? Why do they live here?”

“How can you tell the difference between a red and a white oak?”

You help them imagine this land before houses were built. For a hundred years, the land was farmed. Before that, oak savannah filled the space with high, swaying grasses and sprawling, sturdy oaks.

“Some of the oldest oaks are 150 years old,” you say, looking up. “They were here far before people ever dreamed of building houses on this land. In fact, they could have been saplings during the Civil War.” Another cascade of questions. New eyes on the places they live in and walk through every day.

Place-based education captures what is already in a place and helps students generate knowledge, rather than consume it. Teachers act as guides or co-learners, changing the dynamic of power among learner and educator. Students direct the inquiry, generating fodder for real-world problem-solving. Teachers who practice place-based education indicate that students feel valued. They come to a far deeper understanding of place and its importance in the life of the community. And evidence suggests it works.

For more about place-based education, see:

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