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Nature-deficit disorder: What kids lose by not experiencing the outdoors enough
Research explains the positive impact and health benefits of children spending more time in nature.
- "Nature-deficit disorder" is the term coined by author Richard Louv, to help put a name to the ever-growing problems associated with children spending less time in nature.
- Research has provided evidence that prove Richard Louv's theories on the importance of nature to the human body and mind. This research proves a link between time spent in nature and improvements in areas such as motivation, problem-solving and self-esteem.
- There are many simple, actionable ways parents and educators of young children can incorporate nature back into the lives of children both in school and at home, such as starting outdoor playgroups or reintegrating nature into the school curriculum.
"Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart." - Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
The term "Nature-Deficit Disorder" was coined by Richard Louv, not to serve as a medical diagnosis, but to give meaning to a significant problem in modern society - the human costs of alienating ourselves from nature. There is an ever-growing gap between human beings and nature due to open green space being urbanized and large advancements in technology.
Since the term was coined in Louv's 2005 publication "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder", it has been used as a rallying point for a movement called the New Nature Movement that strives to reconnect children to nature and educate people on the health benefits nature can have on the human mind and body.
What do our children lose by not experiencing enough nature?
Multiple research studies have proven the positive impacts time spent in nature has on the growing mind and body.
Many intriguing studies on this topic provide profound insight into what children are missing by not experiencing enough nature.
To summarize, a lack of vitamin D, increased symptoms of mental health conditions such as ADHD and a lack of motivation among children who spend less time in nature are among the key concerns of researchers who support Richard Louv's theory.
An important 2008 study by Susanna Huh and Catherine Gordon has suggested a strong link between the decline in outdoor activities and the dramatic rise in vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, which our bodies produce as a response to sun exposure, is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth and can also protect against diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
According to Louv: "Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own)."
Researchers have gathered evidence that proves exposure to nature is important to the physical and mental health of children
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted another study in 2005 that focused on 255 sixth-grade students from elementary schools across California. These students attended three outdoor education programs between the months of September and November.
The study evaluated the children across eight different constructs: self-esteem, cooperation, conflict resolution, leadership, relationship with peers, problem-solving ability, motivation to learn and overall behavior in class.
The children were split into two camps: One group of students did the outdoor schooling sessions first, and the other group was used as a baseline and would do the same outdoor schooling sessions after the first program had finished.
Ten weeks after the first study concluded, the positive change in the children was very obviously noted in the post-experiment surveys, with the children who attended the outdoor schooling sessions first showing large improvements in the area of conflict resolution.
The remaining group of children who had not yet completed the outdoor schooling sessions scored significantly lower across 7 of the 8 constructs that were being measured.
The teachers of the children were also asked to submit surveys (separate from the surveys done by the researchers) about the children before and after the experiment. According to the before and after remarks of the teachers, the children who attended outdoor schooling in the first camp showed significant positive gains in the areas of self-esteem, problem-solving, motivation to learn, and behavior in class.
Along with these findings, it was also discovered that the students who attended the outdoor training sessions raised their grades in the science department by up to 27% (according to the pre-survey and post-survey answers). This increase in grades was maintained for up to 10 weeks following the program.
Another study, this time conducted in northeastern China in 2013, further supports the importance of nature in children's lives. This time, the study focused on the association between green-spaces that surrounded schools and the mental health condition of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Data for this particular study came from measuring the green spaces around the schools and two reports given at different times from the parents regarding potential ADHD symptoms in their children.
This data was collected over a span of 10 months and showed results from seven different cities. The study included almost 60,000 children between the ages of 2 and 17, from 94 schools around the country.
The results of this study showed that the levels of green-ness were linked to the incidence of ADHD behavior/symptoms in the children. Greater greenness levels around the school were significantly linked with lower odds of ADHD symptoms present in the children of that school.
How parents (and educators) can easily and affordably reconnect children with nature
There are many easy and affordable ways you can incorporate nature back into your child's life.
The urbanization of society and advances in technology (among other things) have made nature less accessible to our children. However, Richard Louv (and the researchers who have supported his theories) aren't just proving there is a problem - they are also providing communities ways to leap into action.
Parents who are looking for actionable ways to involve nature in their children's lives can do more than just let their children play outside an hour extra a day. Parents can push to become more involved in movements that place importance on nature-learning for kids, such as the Leave No Child Inside movement that has sprung up all over the United States and Canada.
Simple things such as starting an outdoor club with other parents who are interested in maintaining the connection between human beings and nature can be extremely beneficial. In Omaha, for example, a parent-lead association was created by 5 families that offer hands-on, nature-based play activities for children.
If you're an educator, one of the best things you can do to stop the ever-growing gap between our children and nature is to educate yourselves on the cognitive (and other) health benefits of allowing children to have more interactions in nature. Then share that knowledge with not just your students, but other educators as well.The Children & Nature Network site is one of the best resources for re-integrating nature back into the lives of our children, offering links to many different research papers that give you information on the benefits of unstructured outdoor play to whole curriculums that can be based on outdoor learning.
"What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology?"
- Richard Louv, The Nature Principle
- Scientists link sense of smell and sense of direction - Big Think ›
- Dealing with the emotional consequences of climate change - Big ... ›
- Ecotherapy: exploring the many health benefits of nature - Big Think ›
- Children's mental health: CDC study with surprising results - Big Think ›
- Vitamin D may lower risk of contracting COVID-19, says new research - Big Think ›
- Experiencing nature on TV/VR boosts wellbeing, study finds - Big Think ›
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.