first_imgSAN MATEO – Chanda Mong, 18, walked into a redwood forest in the Oakland hills and emerged two days later with a new resolve to rise above her crime-plagued life. Mong and five other teens recently returned from a weekend of peace, safety and leadership training, part of a new program called GirlsOutside that is designed to maximize the positive effects of nature in a child’s life. “When I go into the woods, I’m more relaxed. I feel safe,” Mong said, reflecting on the trip. “I left there wanting to make things different.” It’s that powerful effect, and the growing realization that children’s good mental and physical health depends on exposure to the out-of-doors that’s fueling a new back-to-nature movement called “Leave No Child Inside.” Compelling studies also suggest that a natural remedy may help alleviate the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – difficulty paying attention or listening and excessive fidgeting – that affects more than 4 million youths. A 2005 study from the University of Illinois, which entailed a nationwide analysis of play patterns of children with ADHD, found that those who spent time in nature had significantly fewer symptoms than those who played in an outdoor built environment, such as a soccer field, or played inside. Other research found that even a room with a view of nature reduced ADHD symptoms. And test scores improved by teaching kids in natural settings, according to a 2005 study from the California Department of Education.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre Educators, politicians, environmentalists, law enforcement officers and health-care practitioners are among the professionals banding together to identify ways to integrate nature into children’s daily lives. The ideals of the movement – – began with the 2005 publication of “Last Child In the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Written by Richard Louv, the book references hundreds of studies on the beneficial effects of natural settings on children’s healthy development. During the past two years, 35 cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, have adopted Leave No Child Inside campaigns. In July, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, which calls for all youngsters to experience outdoor activities such as swimming, fishing and camping. And “outdoor preschools” are springing up, immersing 3- and 4-year-olds in nature. Before they learn to add and subtract, these tots can identify native plants and animals, shimmy up a tree and scramble over a boulder. A survey conducted in September by the Public Policy Institute found that 30 percent of teens in the state didn’t hike, camp or visit a wilderness area this past summer. Experts say that “nature deficit” affects a child’s mood, attention and even capacity to learn. After an outdoor outing, youngsters can better cope with the emotional stresses inherent in childhood, according to more than 100 studies on nature’s stress-reducing effects. With lower stress, kids are less likely to behave aggressively, or to experience anxiety or depression. last_img

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