Outdoor Education: Why Teens Need to Get Outside!
With the vast changes in technological advancements, teenager’s means of social interaction have taken a turn. Regular hours of unsupervised outdoor play have been slowly replaced by tv screens, video games, and social media addictions. Oakdale knows that when the time for outdoor play is diminished, it contributes to more sedentary lifestyles, isolation, and disconnect from the natural world. Our Christian boarding school in kentucky recognizes the integral importance of outdoor education for young teen boy’s healthy growth.
So, why do teens need to interact with nature?
- Limit Screen Time: In an age where technology seems to consume society, research indicates children now demonstrate a decrease in social interactions outside of screen time. New software developments add new dimensions of information and keep children from playing outdoors. The resource center of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website states that teens spend more than seven hours a day in front of a screen. All dimensions of technology- whether it’s the television, computer, or smartphone use inhibits a child’s development. Venturing outside keeps children engaged and boosts their overall health. Stepping outside allows children to distance themselves from the addictive nature of television and video games.
- Social Benefits: If children are spending 7 plus hours a day watching a screen, who are they interacting with? Such an amount of time spent interacting with solely an electronic device impacts the social skills of the next generation. It keeps them isolated or even worse, communicating with others in forums that create an air of isolation and anonymity. When teens step outside, they get plenty of opportunities to interact with other peers. You would be surprised how many times a struggling student in our program connects with one of our animals first… in turn, ends up with the opportunity to connect with the staff and their peers. Connecting with others, helping someone or something, solving problems together – valuable life skills our children learn in nature. One of the main principles of the CARE Model is that we are Relationship-Based. We have seen such an impact on our student’s abilities to grow in their relationships when we test these skills in the Great Outdoors.
- Physical & Mental Health: Between the singing birds, buzzing bees, beautiful sunsets, or watching the waves crash in the ocean, children learn to step back and appreciate their surroundings. No electronic device can replace the natural association with Mother Nature. Daily time with nature has both mental and physical benefits. Teens who play more in the natural world fall sick less often than those teens who are restricted to indoor spaces. Regular exposure to the outside world boosts one’s immune system. Research indicates that playing outdoors can improve mood, reduce depression, and reduce mental fatigue. Regular outdoor play also increases flexibility and gross motor skills. Outdoor exercise has proven to help students with their academic life by improving concentration levels. Most of the students in our program are struggling with some degree of mental or physical health.
- Promotes Self-Confidence: Many studies and research topics have provided proof of the benefits of animal programs for teens. It’s all about creating and cultivating a bond between the boy and the animal. The real power in animal is how the animal reflects back the disposition and moods it sees emanating from the boy. It is a startlingly accurate method of daily feedback for the boy, where if his heart and attitude are not right, the animal will also not respond well. Only calm leadership from the boy will cause the animal to trust him and happily comply.
- Intellectual Benefits: Nature provides a buffer from stress. Nature allows children to think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways. Nature provides more stimulation- through sights, smells, sounds, and touch – thus increasing the richness of the human experience. Being able to solve problems on their own and the ability to take calculative risks when needed will boost self-esteem and intellectual curiosity. As a matter of fact, teens who are regularly exposed to the natural world are found to be more resilient to high-stress circumstances.