By Misty Newman
Outdoor education opens up new doors for children and instills in them a love of the outdoors for their entire lives.
Children not exposed to aspects of the outdoors such as conservation, safety and health benefits are given the opportunity to still learn the importance of being in nature and active outdoors.
From what I’ve experienced, Maricopa is already an active community and has a significant population of youth who are outdoors on a regular basis. Many youth in Maricopa are involved in outdoor sports, play at the parks and go hiking and camping with their families. We also have outstanding outdoor and recreation programs through Copper Sky.
Studies show youth today are not playing outdoors as much as they used to do. A survey of 12,000 families with children ages 5-12 in 10 countries (including the United States) found 50 percent of children spent less than an hour per day outdoors and a third of these children spent only 30 minutes outdoors.
A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found American children ages 9-17 are hooked on electronic devices; the total time estimated is a stunning 7 hours and 38 minutes a day.
As a result of kids spending more time indoors, they are less physically fit and often overweight. Obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Center for Disease Control.
This trend of unhealthy kids could be reversed by establishing more outdoor education in our schools. Other curriculum does not have to be set aside but can be enhanced with outdoor related studies.
Children who take part in outdoor education develop the skills to ask critical questions and to observe. These are skills that relate to STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math.
We don’t need to be scientists to know the outdoors greatly enhances and engages youth in ways that computer screens never can.
A school in Oregon has an outdoor program in which parents report their “children are better focused in school, take more personal responsibility for themselves and have greater self-esteem.”
Speaking more about outdoor education is the first step in establishing this type of programming in schools. This exposure to the outdoors in schools benefits youth who have limited access to the outdoors in general. Let’s reverse the trend of unhealthy youth and give all children an opportunity to learn the importance of being in nature and active outdoors.
Misty Newman is the owner of Maricopa Outdoor Adventures.
This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.