Posts Tagged ‘ outdoors ’

Playing Outside May Make Kids More ‘Spiritual’

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Kids who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors may have a deeper sense of purpose, fulfillment, and spirituality, according to new research at Michigan State University.  More from the study’s press release:

In the study, published recently in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the earth, and felt their role is to protect it.

“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies. “We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”

For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.

The study also measured children’s aesthetic values, finding that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty (i.e., balance, symmetry and color), order and wonder (i.e., curiosity, imagination and creativity). For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water and fascination with bees’ nests.

Van Wieren and co-researcher Stephen Kellert, from Yale University, used a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries and observation, as well as conversations with parents. Seven of the 10 children in the study – who were 7 to 8 years old – were from families with a Christian background.

The researchers also found parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spent significant time outdoors during their childhoods. And many of the parents believed such experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality.

Image: Girl playing in the woods, via Shutterstock

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9-Year-Old Makes Prehistoric Find in His Neighborhood

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

A 9-year-old Michigan boy exploring a creek near his house made an astounding find–a 10,000-year-old mastodon tooth. A mastodon is an extinct, giant relative of the modern-day elephant.  More from CNN:

“I was walking down at the creek last summer. I felt something that I stepped on so I picked it up and everybody in the neighborhood thought it was pretty cool,” Philip Stoll told CNN on Friday.

Affectionately called “Huckleberry Phil” in his neighborhood near Lansing because of his penchant for exploring outside, Philip took the lump home and washed it off in the kitchen sink, and checked to see if it was magnetic, his mother, Heidi Stoll said. It wasn’t.

The peculiar object was about 8 inches in length, brown, and had six peaks.

“I was holding it in my hands for a few minutes and then it gave me the creeps so I put it down on the desk,” Heidi Stoll told CNN. “It looked like a tooth. It looked like there was something like gum tissue, a little bulgy thing around the top.”

After researching “large tooth object” on the Internet, mother and son reached out to James Harding, a herpetologist — an expert on reptiles and amphibians — at nearby Michigan State, who told them it was the tooth of one of the long-gone beasts that roamed the area millennia ago.

“This is indeed a mastodon tooth,” Professor Harding confirmed in an e-mail. “Apparently (it is) the upper surface, broken off at the roots.”

Philip told CNN that he always thought he might want to be a paleontologist — a scientist who studies prehistoric life — but now feels that more than ever. And with summer approaching, there’s more exploring to be done.

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Study: Outdoor Playtime May Help Kids’ Vision

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The words, “Go outside and play” have long been known to encourage healthy behaviors in kids.  But a new study suggests that outdoor play may have another benefit–it may reduce the likelihood of children being nearsighted (“nearsighted” means kids have trouble seeing objects at a distance).

The Boston Globe reports that the study, presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting in Orlando, found that every hour a child spent playing outdoors reduced his or her chances of nearsightedness by 18 percent.  Further, nearsighted kids were found to spend an average of 4 fewer hours outdoors than kids with normal vision.

The Globe reports:

Does this prove that playing outside leads to better vision? Not by a long shot.

After all, it could be that kids who have trouble seeing faraway objects prefer to be in smaller confines indoors. Or perhaps kids spend more time staring at computer screens and reading books when they’re not playing outside, which means they’re not using eye muscles required to focus on distance. Two of the studies reviewed found that wasn’t the case, but others didn’t examine the correlation.

One Chinese study — published after the analysis was conducted — found that boosting outdoor time in 40 nearsighted elementary-school-age children from a few hours per week to 14 hours per week resulted in a greater decline in those needing glasses at the end of two years compared with 40 of their counterparts who didn’t increase their outdoor time.

“Increasing children’s outdoor time could be a simple and cost-effective measure with important benefits for their vision and general health” said review stud co-author Anthony Khawaja in a statement. “If we want to make clear recommendations, however, we’ll need more precise data.”

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