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A great way to celebrate Earth Day is spending time outside and connecting with nature. Time in nature offers an easy and inexpensive way to increase your happiness, improve your mood, and feel part of something larger than yourself. Studies have shown that getting outside can:

  • Improve your memory and attention: After just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20%. In workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees are more productive and take less sick time.
  • Heal: Patients in hospital rooms with a view of trees had shorter stays and less need for pain medications compared to patients with views of brick.
  • Improve psychological well-being: Joggers who exercised in a natural green setting felt less anxious, angry, or depressed than people who jogged in an urban setting.
Child running outside under flowering trees

We also know from research that children who spend time outdoors are more likely to develop positive environmental attitudes and behaviors as adults. One of the best ways you can take care of our planet is to encourage children and youth to get outside.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, has created an expansive list of activities to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. Here are just a few ideas you can try with your children or grandchildren:

  1. Maintain a birdbath, grow native plants, or build a bat house. For more ideas, read National Audubon Society’s Invitation to a Healthy Yard.
  2. Collect lightning bugs at dusk and release them at dawn.
  3. Keep a terrarium or aquarium and learn about the plants and animals you observe.
  4. Be a cloud spotter; build a backyard weather station. A young person just needs a view of the sky. Check out The Kid’s Book of Weather Forecasting for more ideas.
  5. Encourage a “green hour” every day. Give kids a daily green hour that includes time outside, unstructured play, and interaction with the natural world.
  6. Collect stones. Even the youngest children love gathering rocks, shells, and fossils. Read Rock and Fossil Hunter by Ben Morgan together.
  7. Learn about and raise butterflies. Consider purchasing a monarch rearing kit and growing milkweed so you can hatch and release your own butterflies.
  8. Hang up a bird feeder and watch birds. Have them close their eyes and just listen. For more tips, check out National Audubon Society’s Easy Ways to Get Kids Birding and Bird Sleuth Investigator from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

No matter what you do while you are outdoors, remember that simply going outside is the most important step. Despite all the positive benefits of being outdoors, according to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. On this Earth Day, make a pledge to get out more and bring some young people with you. Nurturing the next generation of our planet’s caretakers is a perfect way to celebrate!

References:

Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Taylor, A. & Kuo, M. (2006). Is contact with nature important for healthy child development? state of the evidence. Children and their Environments: Learning, Using and Designing Spaces. 124-140.
https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511521232.009

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224 (4647), 420–421. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402

Wells, N. M. & Lekies, K. S., (2006). Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth and Environments, 16 (1), 41663.

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu.

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Plant a TreeDo you remember planting a tree for Arbor Day?  Do you know the meaning of Arbor Day?  This day was set aside for tree planting back in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton. He was a pioneer who traveled from Detroit, Michigan to Nebraska. The pioneers missed their trees and decided to set aside a day for tree planting.  The trees were important for fuel, to keep soil in place, for wind breaks, for building supplies and to offer shade from the hot sun. Want to learn more & see pictures of this historical day? Check out this brief online book.  Arbor Day History

As a young child I remember watching our principal plant a tree in the school yard in honor of Arbor Day.  Every year a new tree was planted and a little ceremony held discussing the importance of trees. Check out this interactive map and find out when your state celebrates Arbor Day.

Did you know that Earth Day started in 1970 to raise awareness of environmental issues such as clean air, climate change and clean water? In four years, we will celebrate the 50th Earth Day. Both of these special days encourage us to increase our awareness of our environment and to honor and nurture a wonderful natural resource, trees.

What can you do to honor our Earth?

  • Plant a tree
  • Plant a garden
  • Plant herbs
  • Teach a child about Earth Day
  • Take a hike in nature
  • Take a few moments to enjoy the beauty of spring
  • Pick up trash along the roadways
  • Plan an excursion to a National or State park
  • Read a story about planting trees
  • Schedule a tree planting in your neighborhood
  • Organize a tree identification hike
  • Teach a child about Arbor Day
  • Volunteer with a local tree planting organization
  • Find out the state tree for your state. Hint: Ohio’s state tree is the Buckeye.

Arbor Day

Did you know that college campuses can meet standards to become a Tree Campus? I was happy to see that Ohio State University met the standards to be a Tree Campus.

Does your favorite university honor Arbor Day? 

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Carol Chandler, Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension, chandler.4@osu.edu

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