Nature: The Rx for Healthy Kids and Schools

NPR aired a Living on Earth interview with Dr. Charles Owyang of San Fransisco today.  He talked about how he and other physicians have started to prescribe nature to children and their families to help them become healthier. Yes, Nature is now being prescribed as a healing agent.This is no surprise to me. I feel my best when I’ve had my daily dose of hiking in the woods or paddling down a stream. But for some this might be quite a shock to hear that doctors are actually prescribing “nature” as medicine.

To hear the whole interview, click here – Living on Earth: The Rx for Healthy Kids.

This is all part of NEEF’s Children and Nature Initiative to get kids outdoors more and help them develop and maintain healthy lifestyle habits. It helps families, too. Being together outdoors is a wonderful way to connect with your kids. It isn’t just about healthy bodies either. Being outdoors and in nature calms the mind, re-connects us with our real selves, and enables us to re-learn that we are a part of nature, not apart from it.

Doctors shouldn’t have to be prescribing nature as a healer. If parents and schools were getting kids outdoors more, doctors probably wouldn’t have to make them go. Being outdoors in nature should be a mandatory part of our schools’ daily programs, too. Every school and district should have an outdoor and environmental education program that connects the entire curriculum and gets kids of all ages outdoors and in nature every day – not just one field trip a year.

I’ve watched as too many school districts have gutted environmental education and field experiences in the name of standardized testing and NCLB. And our kids are paying a high price with fewer opportunities for physical activity, lack of skill in systems thinking, decreased science aptitude, and increased stress. A strong, well-balanced outdoor and environmental education program can improve all these conditions and create citizens that can help solve the enormous challenges facing the world today.

I know there are some schools and districts in the U.S. that ARE including outdoor and environmental education in their curriculum and getting kids moving and growing living things and understanding systems.

Is yours one of them? Tell us how…

To learn more about this topic, you might also like to read or visit…

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Children & Nature Network
National Wildlife Federation’s Make a Difference at School pages
US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Let’s Go Outside program
PLT’s Every Student Learns Outside
Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators by David Sobel
A Parents’ Guide to Nature Play (free 20-page downloadable brochure)

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About Deb Hanson

Always a learner...an endless seeker... educator, biologist, dreamer, innovator, mom, wife... Located in Portland, OR.
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