Anecdotally we all know getting up and moving around outside is not only good for kids but necessary for their health, and the data backs it up. A study of 10- to 12-year-olds in Australia published in the International Journal of Obesity found outdoor education can be a key factor in avoiding childhood obesity. Author Richard Louv has coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the harmful effects on kids of too much indoor overstimulation, including attention-deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, and yes, obesity. As he puts it, “As young people spend less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and we deny them access to a fundamental part of their humanity.”
When serotonin is released in the brain, it produces feelings of safety and well-being, earning it the nickname “the happy hormone.” Activities that cause this release are listening to music, receiving a high-five, or (the relevant one to this discussion) hearing sounds of nature. The “pleasure chemical” dopamine is released by repetitive actions, so educational activities like monitoring a plant’s progress in a garden every day are great for stimulating dopamine’s production. With what we now know about the dangers of stress on children’s bodies, we should be looking for every opportunity to protect them in this area.
It is great, that our school provides a range of opportunities for outdoor education across and outside the curriculum. This is not only meant for physical education but also gardening, walking dogs from the animal shelter and also the expeditions ran within the Duke of Edinburg’s International Award or the Nord Anglia Expeditions.