Kids need time to move outside—it’s essential to their health and well-being. But sadly, lots of students aren’t getting enough space and time during the school day to breathe fresh air, interact with nature, and engage in unstructured play. And considering that children spend about 20 percent of their waking hours in school, that’s cause for concern.
Luckily, parents have a voice when it comes to school policies and programming—it’s time to use yours! Here are five actions you can take this fall to bring more greenery and outdoor activity to your child’s school:
Why restrict use of outdoor spaces to recess time? The outdoors is rife with learning opportunities, and with a healthy dose of creativity, teachers can find ways to take advantage of outdoor spaces and to incorporate natural, sensory, and “messy” elements into their lesson plans. Parents can help facilitate outdoor learning by pitching in to build a DIY classroom so that kids have a dedicated space outside to gather and reflect.
Organize a “walking school bus”
Parents often cite safety issues as one of the primary reasons they are reluctant to allow their children to walk to school. Yet there is always safety in numbers. A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school, or as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers.
Reward walking and biking
Boltage, a parent- and volunteer-driven initiative, aims to increase the number of elementary school children regularly bicycling and walking to school. A solar-powered device counts daily trips. Children and parents can view and manage their data online, and students receive awards based on activity level. Boltage currently operates at 35 schools and has tracked over 650,000 kid-powered miles,which have saved 58,000 gallons of gas.
Create a “wild zone”
Playing in nature comes intuitively to children—after all, nature is rife with opportunities to splash, dig, climb, run, and explore. But “nature” doesn’t have to take the form of pristine forests and rolling hills. Even the smallest of school yards can incorporate cost-effective natural elements—whether in the form of sand, water, logs, or plants—by establishing a “wild” or “create-with-nature” zone.
Just add shade
Many schoolyards offer no shaded areas, which discourages use in hotter months. Shade structures come in all shapes and sizes and can be added to existing equipment to provide some respite from the sun. If your budget is tight, consider erecting temporary shade structures from tarps, fabrics, and/or tents. And don’t forget about planting trees, which not only provide shade but also beauty, greenery, and potentially, new climbing opportunities for children!
Ready to get started? Sign this Back-to-School Pledge and get a free copy of How to Save Play at Your School, featuring these and 10 additional actions you can take this fall.
|Kerala Taylor is Senior Manager of Online Content & Outreach at KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America’s children. She is passionate about getting kids unplugged and about building community through outdoor play. You can follow KaBOOM! on Twitter: @kaboom|