[This is my second attempt as my first was eaten when my browser crashed. Thus the choppiness, for which I apologize. The second attempt is never as good as the first, one is always trying to remember that which is lost and those bits of memory really impede the composition process.]
I’m reading a National Geographic article on city parks and other urban green spaces and it’s spinning my thoughts out in several directions I want to explore.
This article follows a lovely photo essay on green spaces in Paris. Makes me want to go back for a visit. I love Paris in the springtime… (And yes, I was there in the spring. When I studied abroad in college, I celebrated Easter with my second cousin and his family and it was wonderful.)
But this article is more of an exploration of why green spaces are so important for urban areas and what efforts various cities are pursuing to increase the green.
It was the sections about the psychological aspects of parks and gardens that really caught me. It cites studies of public housing in Chicago that found that people living in “buildings surrounded by grass and trees. . . had a stronger sense of community and coped better with everyday stress and hardship. They were less aggressive and less violent, they performed better on tests of concentration, they managed their problems more effectively [than people living in buildings surrounded by asphalt].” They also found there was half as much crime—and less litter and graffiti—in buildings near vegetation as buildings without.
The article also cites a study that showed “that children with attention deficit disorders showed reduced symptoms when they were exposed to natural environments. After play in verdant settings, parents reported that the children’s ability to concentrate, complete tasks, and follow directions improved dramatically—in all age groups, in all parts of the country.”
What this article brought to mind was all the reading on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and method of education. Miss Mason advocates that the mornings be spent in classroom work and the afternoons be spent outdoors in play and nature study. It is interesting to note that one of the results of Miss Mason’s method seems to be an amazing level of concentration and memory.
In part this seems to be the result of her insistence on short lessons (ex 15 minutes) and reading once followed by narration. But I wonder if the time outside doesn’t also contribute to the mental health and ability to focus.
I recently read a blurb in the newspaper that mentioned how many children are now being medicated for attention deficit disorders. And I wondered why is it suddenly such a huge problem. I suspect that there is a large amount of mis-diagnosis, parents and teachers who simply can’t handle the normal energy levels and attention spans of children. But I also have read many stories recently about schools cutting recesses. And I know that many children are spending more time in front of the television, computer, or game system than they are running around outdoors.
I spent some time a couple of years ago tutoring young children in reading (not quite sure how I stumbled into that, but I was not really a good match for that age group, I’m much better with teens and young adults.) And there was one mom whose third grade son was really struggling with reading and writing. I’d show up for his tutorial and he was always either watching television or upstairs in his room on his game system. Several times I wanted to just tell that mom, if you really want your son to improve, take the television and Nintendo out of his bedroom and limit his television viewing. Let him run around outside or sit and read a book, not get his brain sucked into the screen. I never quite got the courage to do so.
My sister has ADD and she agrees that she can really tell the difference in her ability to concentrate and get stuff done aftger she’s spent some time outside.
So maybe what kids need is not more classroom time, but more recess. More time to run around, kick a ball, make mud pies and be kids. Not only will they be healthier and happier, they might learn something about the world around them.
I write all this while I’m effectively housebound. It’s far too cold of late to take my daily spins through the park and Isabella and I both miss it dreadfully. I do feel more lethargic and slightly stupider.
I can’t wait for spring—and green—to get here.
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