Are you longing to incorporate more time in nature into your homeschool days, but struggling to fit it all in? We are pleased to welcome Dr. Kristin Moon of Kristin Moon Science to the Homeschool Compass to share with us why it is worthwhile to prioritize time in nature. Not only has Dr. Moon homeschooled her own children from birth through high school, but she also draws from her background as a science researcher and educator to show us why time spent outdoors is so vital.
The brilliant Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” This great scientist—capable of complex thought that many of us can only dream of comprehending—understood that nature was an incredible teacher.
Unfortunately, so many of us spend days and even weeks without exposing ourselves to the wonders of the world outside the four walls of our homes, our work spaces, and our classrooms. We need to change that. Spending time in nature is good for all of us, no matter our age or stage in life.
Scientists have discovered that spending time outdoors provides amazing benefits for our health–both physically and mentally. Additionally, the outside world also provides amazing opportunities for children of all ages to learn. Not only does time in nature expose children to a variety of topics (including but not limited to earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and meteorology), spending time outdoors has been demonstrated to provide measurable benefits in focus, memory, and test scores.
Read on to discover the reasons time in nature is good for you and for your kids!
Time in Nature is Good for You
There are countless scientific studies that have shown that spending time in nature is good for your health—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here are just a few health benefits to spending time outdoors.
- Getting outside is good for your heart. Multiple studies have demonstrated that regular time spent in nature may reduce the risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Time in nature is good for your mind and your mood. Spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood and memory, and reduce the incidence of depression. Other studies show that time in nature reduces the amount of negative self-talk people engage in.
- Time outdoors supplies vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth, regulating insulin levels, and strengthening the immune system. Unfortunately, studies estimate that at least 40% of American adults are vitamin D-deficient. While it is possible to get vitamin D through diet alone, the best way to get vitamin D is by spending time outdoors. How? Amazingly, when exposed to sunlight, our skin manufactures vitamin D.
- Spending time in nature may strengthen the immune system. Studies have shown that increased time in nature correlates with an increase in the number of germ- and cancer-fighting cells of the immune system including Natural Killer (NK) cells.
- Time in nature has been linked to shorter recovery times from surgeries and other medical procedures. Spending time in nature can also reduce inflammation within the body and help combat fatigue by regulating circadian rhythms.
Clearly, time in nature provides a wealth of benefits for our health, but what specific advantages does spending time outside provide school-aged children?
Time in Nature is Good for Your Kids
Children who spend time in nature have been shown to have better focus, increased creativity, and boosts in memory. Beyond the health benefits, time in nature has been found to improve academic performance. Studies show that students who participate in outdoor classrooms and other nature-based learning experiences fare better academically. One study in particular demonstrated that students in outdoor science programs improved their test scores by 27 percent.
In addition, time spent in nature helps children regulate the sensory input they are taking in all throughout the day. Getting outside and away from the constant barrage of information coming at them from screens allows them time to think, lets their minds wander, and may even give them a chance to become bored (though that’s actually a good thing).
While many parents and teachers can appreciate the value of adding outdoor time into the day for young children, they may feel pressure as kids get older to increase the time spent inside doing “real school”. However, spending time in nature can provide excellent learning opportunities for students in middle school, high school, and even college.
For me personally, when I think back to my college biology courses, the memories I recall most vividly involve field work, taking the concepts we’d learned in the classroom and investigating how they play out in nature: tracking how many and what kind of pollinators visited a flower, measuring how many ant lion traps there were in a given area, and so on.
Nature has so much to teach us. In a single trip outside, your student can learn about biology, chemistry, physics, meteorology, earth science, and astronomy. Nature can even inspire your children creatively like many of the great authors, playwrights, and artists.
In our next article, we’ll explore some of the many ways you can get your kids learning and exploring out in nature!