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Natural Design: Why Outdoor Education Matters

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Sarah Johnson

on 23 June 2015

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Transcript of Natural Design: Why Outdoor Education Matters


Natural Design

Nature Deficit Disorder:
Why Outdoor Education Matters



Schools that use outdoor classrooms produce student gains in social studies, science, language arts and math; improved standardized test scores and grade-point averages; and enhanced skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making.

“Multi-sensory experiences in nature help to build the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development and stimulates imagination,” according to researcher Robin Moore.

Studies at the University of Michigan showed people who spent one hour in nature experienced a 20 percent boost in memory and attention span.

The University of Kansas found a 50 percent increase in creativity after a few days in nature.  



Dutch researchers found prevalence for 15 of 24 diseases - including anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, chronic neck and back pain, asthma and migraine - was lower in people living in environments with more green space in a one-kilometer radius.



"Humans evolved in nature, and it’s where we feel most comfortable, even if we don’t always know it. Throughout our evolution, we have spent 99.9 percent of our time in natural environments. Our physiological functions are still adapted to it. During everyday life, a feeling of comfort can be achieved if our rhythms are synchronized with those of the environment.”



A growing body of research links more time in nature — or in home, work or hospital environments enhanced through nature-based design — with reduction of stress and depression, faster healing time and less need for pain medication.




Natural Killer cells (NK) are affected by “aromatic volatile substances,” sometimes called phytoncides. These are aerosols emitted by evergreens and many other trees. Scientists have identified 50 to 100 of these phytoncides.



Natural killer cells (NK) in our bodies send self destruct messages to tumors and viruses. Stress, aging and pesticides reduce NK.

Study subjects hiked in morning and again in afternoon. After three days, blood tests showed their NK cells increased 40 percent. A month later, their NK count was still 15 percent higher than before.



Scientists in Japan are measuring what’s happening to cells and neurons using field tests, hormone analysis, and new brain-imaging technology to uncover how nature impacts our bodies on a molecular level.




Rediscovering our inherent biophilia, what Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson and Yale social ecologist Stephen Kellert defined as humanity’s affinity for nature,
has multiple benefits.




Sitting is the new smoking. Evidence shows sitting long hours every day can have serious health risks similar to those caused by smoking.

The Kaiser Foundation study found kids spend 
53 hours
a week plugged into some kind of electronic medium or
7.5 hours
a day, versus
7 minutes
of outside play.

Children’s eyesight and vitamin D levels are affected by too much screen time. Public health professionals state today’s children may have life spans three-to-five year shorter than their parents’ due to their inactive, indoor lifestyles.
“The EPA warns us indoor air pollution is the nation's number one environmental threat to health- it's from two to ten times worse than outdoor air pollution. A child indoors is more susceptible to spore of toxic molds growing under that plush carpet; bacteria or allergens carried by household vermin; or carbon monoxide, radon and lead dust. The allergen level of newer, sealed buildings can be as much as two hundred times greater than that of older structures.” 




Research states children who are not regularly exposed to the natural world have increased levels of depression, ADHD, obesity, allergies, diabetes, asthma and other physical and mental health issues.




Since 2008, population has shifted; more people now live in urban areas than not.

In the U.S. children spend far less time outdoors than any previous generation – only 20% of children spend time regularly
in nature.



A lack of regular interaction with nature may impact physical, cognitive, social and emotional development
and health.

“Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, our own).” 




What if we used that enhanced creative power to help students and the rest of us imagine a healthy, nature-rich civilization?

What if we immersed in nature as much as technology?



University of Illinois professor Frances Kuo studied the relationship between levels of vegetation and crime rates in a Chicago public housing development.

She found housing blocks with high levels of greenery had 48 per cent fewer property crimes and 56 per cent fewer violent crimes than housing blocks with little or no vegetation.



A report from the British mental health organization 
recommended '
'green exercise''
be considered as a clinically valid treatment for people experiencing mental distress.

Scientists at the University of Essex found just five minutes of green exercise a day resulted in improvements in mood and self-esteem.



Of course any outdoor activity is
good, but unstructured, nonathletic time, such as sit spots, ant watching, and star gazing have distinct physical and mental health impact.





Children who grow up on farms and are frequently exposed to dirt, worms, bacteria and other organisms are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Kids who play outside are less likely to get sick, to be stressed or become aggressive.





Nature gives your frontal lobes a rest. When we are at ease in our environment, our parasympathetic system relaxes.

The constant stimulus of modern life triggers our sympathetic nervous system, and triggers it, and triggers it. This constant fight or flight stimuli raises cortisol and blood pressure.

Chronically high cortisol levels and blood pressure lead to heart disease, stroke and depression.





Leisurely forest walks, compared with urban walks, yield a 12.4 % decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a
7 % percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 % percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 5.8 % percent decrease in heart rate.



stranger danger
traffic danger
health and safety fears
increasingly structured and organized lives
decrease (90%) access to green space
more homework and other time pressures
increasing car ownership and use
longer parental working hours
more two parent working families
indoor, screen-based leisure activities


“For most of human history, people chased things or were chased. They turned dirt and planted seeds. They took in Vitamin D from the sun, and learned to tell a crow from a raven. And then, in less than a generation’s time, millions of people completely decoupled themselves from nature.”



NDD is not a medical condition but a social and cultural condition when people are disconnected from their environment and the natural world.


What is Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)?

The Inquiry Process begins with Nature

Naturalist David Attenborough asked, “Where will the nature lovers of tomorrow come from if children are no longer allowed to roam, seek, observe, discover and collect?”

There’s evidence children who are regularly exposed to nature are the best source of future advanced math & science students.

“Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, our own).” 
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder


Why does it matter?
Timothy Egan, The New York Times
What happened?
Shifts in Cultural Attitudes
What is the Impact of NDD?
Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Sedentary Lifestyle Risks
Media Impact
Time to Reconnect
International Research supports
benefits of Time Spent in Nature
Shinrinyoku/Forest Bathing
Natural Defense
Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Trees to the Rescue
Nature's Impact on the Brain
Nature as Immune Builder
Nature as Healer
Natural Rhythm
Indoor Risk
Outdoor Exercise
Green Exercise
Green Living
Nature vs. Crime
Nature for Memory, Attention & Creativity
The Creative Force of Nature
New Nature Based Careers
Nature and Cognitive Development
Improved Educational Outcomes
Environmental Education Legislation
The Inquiry Process Begins with Nature


Naturalist David Attenborough asked, “Where will the nature lovers of tomorrow come from if children are no longer allowed to roam, seek, observe, discover and collect?”

There’s evidence children who are regularly exposed to nature are the best source of future advanced math & science students.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Nature and Human History


Biophilic designers, urban planners, architects, landscapers, developers, gardeners, re-modelers, “new agrarian" family farms, community gardens or vertical farms in dense urban neighborhoods; physicians and mental health professionals who prescribe nature; green exercise trainers and park rangers who act as health paraprofessionals; and educators who use the natural world to ignite a sense of wonder and creativity in their students. . .

Smart phone app trail guide starting at
our front door
App/blog/event Assessment


H.R. Bill 2702 No Child Left Inside
Federal bill to promote environmental literacy

No Child Left Inside Coalition
400 Organizations, 20 million people

Michigan No Child Left Inside Coalition
http://michncli.org/

Check us out on our webpage, facebook page, twitter, youtube channel and instagram!
Full transcript