Photo: Back to School? Get back outside!

By Leanne Clare, Project Lead, Connecting Youth with Nature, David Suzuki Foundation

Every September there is a great migration. Flocks of children everywhere go from hanging out in trees and exploring the outdoors, to sitting behind a desk inside a classroom.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Parents and educators can encourage kids to spend time outside all year long. In fact, we need to. In a recent survey of Canadian youth conducted for the David Suzuki Foundation, 70 per cent said they spend about an hour or less outside a day. That's just not enough!

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We need to help our children understand that spending time outside is important. Studies have shown that spending time in nature helps with recall and memory, problem solving, and creativity. Children — and adults — who spend more time outside are also physically healthier.With school starting and schedules filling up, the David Suzuki Foundation wants you to make the time to be outside with your family. In fact, we want your family to spend the next four weeks creating a "nature habit."

We've created four fun and easy ways for you to enjoy nature in your neighbourhood and start thinking about your connections to nature.

Week 1: Food-miles for the family: Visit the local farmers' market to see the bounty of the fall harvest.
Week 2: Discovering nature has limits: Hike through the fall colours and discover nature has limits we must learn to respect.
Week 3: Water, water everywhere: Hunt down ponds, streams and puddles in your neighbourhood to start off a conversation about the importance of water in nature and our lives.
Week 4: Home heating blowin' away with the wind?: Pull on sweaters and hunt for drafts around your home to help fight climate change.

Each activity has been adapted from the David Suzuki Foundation's new educational guide for grades four to six. The free guide has already received praise from the Ontario Ministry of Education, and will be used by teachers across Ontario this fall to help get their students outside. We hope you'll enjoy the guide and pass it on to teachers if you do!

Parents play a critical role in helping kids develop a nature habit. According to our survey, if youth spend time outside when they're young, they're 20 per cent more likely to take part in outdoor programs or to explore nature on their own when they're older. Perhaps most importantly, taking your kids into nature will leave them with some of their best childhood memories.

Help us get 5 000 families outside this fall — start your "nature habit" today!

September 25, 2012

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