Learning and development of children are affected and influenced by a number of factors. Some important factors include technology and teaching method used by an instructed. Surprisingly, it has been identified that nature is also a critical factor that affects the development and learning of children. It has further been determined that the environment of children in which they study and interact influences their development. Now, the question is if nature can promote the development of children or not?
Learning and Development
Children are consistently learning and growing as they observe and interact with their surroundings. There are numerous studies that actually confirm that children begin to learn as soon as they are born. They are rapidly growing and they are attempting to imitate what they observe. When they are of appropriate age, their formal education begins and they are made to learn. Actually, their learning is affected by different factors. For instance, it has been identified that when an instructor is compassionate and caring, it helps children in learning better. Similarly, it has also been determined that when children interact with technology and utilize innovative techniques, it facilitates their growth and their learning to a significant extent (Hauser-Cram, Nugent, Thies, & Travers, 2013).
There is no doubt that researchers are consistently studying how different aspects and factors tend to influence the education and development of children. It has been determined that the setting in which students learn and study has a significant influence on their development. For instance, one study determined that when children are made to sit in a noisy and uncomfortable setting, it tends to adversely influence their learning. In fact, their learning over the long term is adversely influenced to a significant extent. Meanwhile, another study indicated that when children are sitting in a comfortable setting that they prefer, it tends to positively influence their learning, and development is improved to a significant extent.
Actually, the environment or setting in which children learn and their learning itself are associated with each other. It is generally because children are consistently interacting with their environment. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it is worth noting that students or children are interacting with their environment. For instance, in a noisy environment, children will continue to receive noise from their ears. Meanwhile, in a comfortable environment, there will be no such stimulus and they will be able to focus better on their education. Therefore, it can be said that the environment in which students learn has a great influence on their learning and development (Ansell, 2016).
Nature and Children
The intuition that nature is beneficial for children is held widely and still, the evidence for it has been uncompelling historically. There is a lack of studies and research that actually focus on nature and identify its relationship with the development and learning of children. However, in recent few years, there has been a renewed focus on identifying how nature can influence and positively affect the development and learning of children. In Environmental International, a recent study was published and it has identified that living in a natural environment is related to improved development in the first years of life than spending that time in an environment where nature is present only in the form of grass.
At Barcelona Institute, a researcher, Matilda van der Bosch led the analysis and has observed that both types of green environments are related to better outcomes in terms of development among children than the areas where nature is not present or prevalent. In this sense, it is revealed by the study what other researches have also begun to imply. It indicates that green spaces and environments are associated with better memory and attention in early childhood. It also results in fewer behavioral and emotional issues, and improved academic outcomes.
In addition to it, the research team desired to further explore and identify if the type or kind of vegetation makes any difference in these associations. Even though green spaces appear to influence health in a positive manner, wooded areas may be capable of mitigating heat, noise, pollution, and air more than other open green spaces. Therefore, they also played an important role in recovering from fatigue while improving direct attention. In contrast with it, lawn extensions may be more favorable for group-oriented activities and processes. As compared to these settings and areas, paved surfaces may expose more to traffic-related pollution and noise, and heat.
The study was performed in Canada and it was specifically based on a large birth cohort including data acquired from approximately 27,539 boys and girls. In addition, the data itself had been acquired between 2005 and 2000 by a number of administrations. From birth to five years, this population of children was followed and their physical well-being and health were assessed by their kindergarten teachers. They also assessed their communication skills, linguistic abilities, cognitive abilities, their emotional maturity, and even their social skills. EDI or Early Development Instrument was utilized by these instructors as a tool for facilitating their evaluations.
For determining if the type of land which they covered had any vegetation or not and if the vegetation itself consisted of trees or grass, a high-quality map spatial resolution was utilized by the research team. The overall exposure to vegetated areas was actually identified to be at 36 percent. In contrast with it, the total exposure to paved surfaces was around 32 percent. It should be noted that children most living in and exposed to grass and trees had the highest scores in terms of development. In fact, this positive relationship was notable, especially in wooded areas. On the other hand, exposure to different paved areas was related to the lower development of children (Jarvis, et al., 2022).
At the University of British Columbia, a researcher, Ingrid Jarvis, determined that through the evaluation of different vegetation types, the results help in better understanding and comprehending the relationships between being exposed to green spaces and the development of children. Even though a number of other studies are required in this regard, this data might be helpful in the planning of the urban environment. This data together suggests that transforming paved surfaces into improved and green spaces, particularly increasing the presence of trees can positively influence the health and even development of children.
It is important to note that increasing vegetation and trees are capable of significantly reducing the negative impacts that are related to non-permeable environments and urbanization. Even though the associations between development and exposure to nature were small, it would not be wrong to say that even minimal and small individual benefits are capable of resulting in better life and benefits throughout adulthood. Therefore, it is necessary to pursue efforts and initiatives that are capable of increasing vegetation and transforming different paved areas into green areas (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017).
At the University of Illinois, in the Department of Natural Resources, an associate professor, Ming Kuo determines that when a review was performed on how the development of children is influenced by exposure to nature, all the outcomes were clear. She determines that it is time to consider and take nature seriously because it is capable of improving the learning and development of children to a significant extent. In addition, the trend of raising indoor instruction with the hope of enhancing the performance of standardized tests may be harming children more than actually improving their learning and development.
It is worth noting that according to Kuo, there is strong evidence that when children spend time in nature, it tends to have a replenishing influence on their attention. At the same time, it tends to decrease stress, improve engagement and enjoyment, self-motivation, and even increase fitness and physical activity. All of these aspects have been identified to have a positive influence over development and learning. It would not be wrong to say that nature tends to develop a safer, quieter, and even calmer setting, which influences children in a positive manner (Hughes, 2021).
These findings reveal and indicate the significance of nature. It also indicates something that has been confusing researchers for a while now. How is it possible for being exposed to nature for even a little time is capable of delivering large effects? Now, researches have identified that nature helps in creating a positive environment for children. It not only makes a student or a child more attentive but also helps in increasing their interest and decreasing their stress. It should be noted that time that is spent in nature appears to have a positive influence on personal qualities and skills. They are necessary for future success and they may even play a critical role in assisting children in growing up better.
Furthermore, when children are exposed to nature, it helps in developing some significant skills. For instance, children are enabled to develop a number of critical skills such as resilience, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, and even perseverance. Learning outside tends to support problem-solving and creativity in children while enhancing cognitive abilities. At the same time, it tends to improve their academic performance. In the US, studies have indicated strong progress in math, arts science, and social studies through different US-based programs. It helps in improving focus while reducing anxious energy (Isaacs, 2013).
When children are exposed to nature, it also serves to relieve their stress which is quite beneficial for children, especially students who are consistently placed under a significant amount of pressure. Other than just assisting children psychologically, education and development in nature have different benefits. Children studying in and exposed to nature tend to be more active both mentally and physically. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that through the exposure of children to nature, it can be possible to ensure that the development of children is improved and facilitated to a significant extent (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2018).
Kuo, Barnes, & Jordan (2019) determine that nature’s rejuvenating effect on children and even adults has been indicated and demonstrated in different studies such as large-scale longitudinal studies and field experiments. It should be noted that students assigned randomly to different classrooms with a view of greenery tend to perform better on different types of experiments and concentration tests than those assigned to students who were not exposed to nature.
In addition to it, it has been identified that exposure to nature is capable of reducing the stress of children. In fact, in children, nature has been identified to decrease the levels of both physiological and self-reported measures of stress. In fact, an experimental study has indicated that when children are capable of viewing vegetation from their classrooms, it tends to yield lower stress. Other than that, when students were learning in a forest, the analysis reported better diurnal rhythms. At the same time, when learners are sitting in a natural environment, their engagement, enjoyment, and even their motivation are increased to a significant extent. The same effects are not experienced when learners or children are in an enclosed environment where vegetation is not present.
In nature, the positivity of learning seems to ripple outwards as it is observed in the engagement of learners in subsequent lessons that are held indoors. Similarly, in a school environment, the interest of children is often low. In contrast, this interest is significantly higher when children are in a natural environment (Kuo, Barnes, & Jordan, 2019).
In the end, it is worth noting that other than producing oxygen and shade for us, a new study has identified that it can also encourage the development of children. It can offer a stress-free and relaxing environment to children in which their learning is enhanced. You will be surprised to know that as per the study included in this article, children demonstrated better development in a natural environment as compared to students in confined settings. Still, there is a need for further studies in order to confirm these results and further explore them.
- Ansell, N. (2016). Children, youth and development. Routledge.
- Bjorklund, D. F., & Causey, K. B. (2017). Children′ s thinking: Cognitive development and individual differences. Sage Publications.
- Entwisle, D. R., Alexander, K. L., & Olson, L. S. (2018). Children, schools, and inequality. Routledge.
- Hauser-Cram, P., Nugent, J. K., Thies, K., & Travers, J. F. (2013). The Development of Children and Adolescents: An Applied Perspective. John Wiley & Sons.
- Hughes, F. P. (2021). Children, play, and development. SAGE publications.
- Isaacs, S. (2013). Social development in young children. Routledge.
- Jarvis, I., Sbihi, H., Davis, Z., Brauer, M., Czekajlo, A., Davies, H. W., & Gergel, S. E. (2022). The influence of early-life residential exposure to different vegetation types and paved surfaces on early childhood development: A population-based birth cohort study. Environment International, 163.
- Kuo, M., Barnes, M., & Jordan, C. (2019). Do experiences with nature promote learning? Converging evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship. Frontiers in psychology, 10.