Sunday, April 8, 2007
nature to improve education
ISLAND, April 8, 2007 - - You can see the brain buzz a kid
gets when she's playing outside with seashells, watching birds
or running around on the beach.
It's a sharp contrast to how most youths spend their time
- - stuck in front of a television, video or computer screen.
A recent study shows American children spend an average of
44 hours a week - - more than six hours a day - - in front
of a screen.
"Their senses -- including, most sadly, their sense
of wonder -- are bombarded, overwhelmed and ultimately diminished,"
according to the National Wildlife Federation.
It's not difficult to figure out the development of this
"nature deficit disorder," a term penned by author
Richard Louv. Through the nation's automated babysitter (television),
children get a lot of information passively. It's one-way
- - TV to child. Interactivity picks up some with video games
(but then again, they are games) and using computers, but
it's not the same as learning based on direct experiences.
Great Egret flies along a tidal marsh looking for food.
Take the case of a bird like the Great Egret. Today's children
might be able to learn everything in the world about it through
a TV documentary or the Internet. But actually to see the
big white bird slowly stalk small fish in a tidal stream as
the sun beats down is completely different. Playing outside
for kids is an educational, sensory experience that caresses
and stimulates their brains in multiple, interactive ways.
Educators say trading screen time for green time outdoors
is, to make a bad pun, a natural. Children who play outside
regularly in an unstructured way are fitter and more creative
and more imaginative. They also have less stress and better
self-respect, according to NWF's Green
Hour program, a national initiative for getting children
to spend one hour a day outside.
While the NWF program is voluntary, a state-backed, environmental
education pilot program shows promise in providing a new structure
to improve student performance.
The SC"Using the Environment as an Integrating Context
for Learning" School Network involves 2,500 students
and 120 teachers in 11 middle schools across the state.
"They're using the natural and social systems as the
context of learning in their local communities," said
environmental educator Ed Falco, coordinator of the program
for the State Department of Education.
He's quick to point out that the system isn't just a way
to teach science. Instead, it integrates science, math, social
studies and language arts into an environmental education
"We're using environmental education in a new way,"
he said. "It's not just about science. These kids are
out and about investigating. They're exploring and trying
to solve local issues. They're taking their education further
by taking it outside."
So far, the results for the sixth graders involved are encouraging,
At one middle school in Colleton County, for example, students
had an average gain in standardized test scores that were
higher than the statewide average gain in schools not involved
in the program, Falco said.
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This nature-based strategy seems to work. Seven of the nine
schools involved last year in the program showed increases
in standardized test scores in three of four content areas.
In other words, kids generally improved not just in one area
like science, but also in language arts, social studies or
Even more interestingly, the program seems to stimulate children.
Almost three in four reported that they had positive changes
and behavior toward their school, Falco said. Why? Because
they were investigating and exploring outside of the classroom.
Louv, the author who also chairs the Children
and Nature Network, said using nature in education is
a growing national movement. A handful of states are considering
legislation to integrate the strategy into school curriculums.
"This issue has the peculiar ability to bring people
together who normally don't want to be in the same room,"
he said in an interview.
Falco's program currently costs about $300,000 a year and
is backed mostly with private grants. If it were to be expanded
across the state, a good guess is it would cost about $6 million
a year to run it.
And think of the benefits: Not only might more children be
inspired to learn, but they might become tomorrow's stewards
of South Carolina's outdoors.
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
4/3: Don't condemn people for choices.
To the editor:
While I do not believe that abortion should be the first
line of birth control, there are definitely times when it
the better alternative. I don't necessarily mean after rape
or incest, those are no brainers. What about the young woman
who finds herself pregnant and unable to support a child?
Who does it benefit to have her go through pregnancy (emotionally
and physically) to give birth to an unwanted child? Yes, she
can put the child up for adoption or keep it and raise it
alone or with her parents' help if she is lucky. My 14 year
old daughter has a friend (also 14) who is pregnant with her
second child. They live with her single mother and two younger
siblings. Is this a better alternative?
There is not a man alive who has a clue of what it is like
to be pregnant or carry a child. They have never had to agonize
over whether they were capable of caring for a child. This
is not a decision that comes easily to anyone. It is a decision
that is debated internally on many levels and one that the
mother will have to live with for the rest of her life. It
is a traumatic event and ultimately a sacrifice of part of
As for the mandatory ultrasound viewing [Commentary,
3/25], who is going to pay for it? If she couldn't
afford to have the child in the first place, do you really
think she can afford additional medical bills?
What will the doctors do to enforce this action? Will restraints
be added to beds to make the woman watch?
I understand that Roe v Wade is a controversial action,
but people, wake up! This is OLD NEWS. There are lots of things
happening in the world that I don't like or approve of. I
just don't choose to participate in them. If you don't believe
in abortion, don't have one. Don't condemn someone who makes
a different choice than you. No one is going to force you
to have an abortion, by the same token, don't force a young
woman into having an unwanted child. No man or woman has the
right to tell another person what to do with her body. It
is a personal decision that she will have to live with and
ultimately explain to her Maker.
-- Elizabeth S. Bunker, Fountain Inn, SC
Sanford would be good veep
Sanford not a good VP? [Commentary,
4/1] Well to the folks such as yourself and your fellow
partners in crime "business as usual" Republicans,
no Gov. Sanford would not make a good VP.
To the rest of us who appreciate his stunts and efforts to
change this ass backwards governed state we think he'd make
a fine VP. Hell President Sanford sounds good to me and many
people I know.
-- Terry L. Bowyer, Lyman, SC
- 3/26: House
off-base on ultrasound vote, Ree Mallison, West Columbia,
- 3/25: Condemns
abortion, George W. Dargen, Darlington, SC
- 3/20: Payday
lending is sought-after service, Ken Compton, Spartanburg,
- 3/16: SC
on track to becoming nuclear chump, Leslie Minerd,
- 3/16: Everybody
loses with payday lending, Earl Capps, Summerville,
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