By Olivia Witthun, DNR Urban Forestry Coordinator, Plymouth, Olivia.Witthun@wisconsin.gov or 414-750-8744
September is back to school month. How do you get those kids to settle down and focus after three months off? The answer is as simple as walking right outside your front door! Exposure to nature has been shown to positively impact students, from improved academic performance and focus, to reduced Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms.
Research has demonstrated that exposure to nature during school hours is positively associated with academic performance, including standardized test scores, graduation rates and plans to attend a four-year college. Among girls, greener views from home increase the ability to concentrate and foster self-discipline, which enables them to perform better in school.
Children with attention deficits concentrate better after a walk in the park. Green outdoor settings reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential and case characteristics. Millions of children ages 3-17 are treated for ADHD in the U.S. each year. Nature exposure is a potential alternative treatment; studies show that activity within nature or green spaces, such as play or just 20 minutes of walking, can reduce symptoms. This equates to a potential economic value of $396 million –$1.9 billion in medication savings per year.
For more information and links to published research, visit human health in the Vibrant Cities Lab and Nature’s Riches: The Health and Financial Benefits of Nearby Nature.
A collection of resources on the human health benefits of urban nature can be found on the DNR’s webpage, “Good Health Grows on Trees: The Influence of Nearby Nature on Public Health.”