Rewild the Child

This piece by George Monbiot was published in The Guardian (8th October 2013). Although its focus is on schools and children’s education, its essence is also very relevant to children’s wellbeing and mental/emotional health:

“A week in the countryside is worth three months in a classroom.

What is the best way to knacker a child’s education? Force him or her to spend too long in the classroom.

An overview of research into outdoor education by King’s College London found that children who spend time learning in natural environments ‘perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies.'(1) Exploring the natural world ‘makes other school subjects rich and relevant and gets apathetic students excited about learning.’

Fieldwork in the countryside, a British study finds, improves long-term memory(2). Dozens of papers report sharp improvements in attention when children are exposed to wildlife and the great outdoors(3). Teenaged girls taken on a three-week canoeing trip in the US remained, even 18 months later, more determined, more prepared to speak out and show leadership and more inclined to challenge conventional notions of femininity
Studies of the programmes run by the Wilderness Foundation UK, which takes troubled teenagers into the mountains, found that their self-control, self-awareness and behaviour all improved(4,5,6). Ofsted, the schools inspection service, reports that getting children out of the classroom raises ‘standards, motivation, personal development and behaviour.’

Last week I saw the evidence for myself. With the adventure learning charity WideHorizons, I spent two days taking a group of 10 year-olds from a deprived borough in London rockpooling and roaming the woods in mid-Wales(8). Many of them had never been to the countryside before and had never seen the sea …”

Read more here.

  1. Kings College, London. April 2011. Understanding the diverse benefits of learning in natural environments. Commissioned by Natural England.
  2. Stuart Nundy, 2001. Raising achievement through the environment: the case for fieldwork and field centres. National Association of Field Studies Officers. Cited by Kings College, London, as above.
  3. Many of them are listed here: William Bird, 2007. Natural Thinking: investigating the links between the natural environment, biodiversity and mental health. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
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