Daily Contact with Nature
Children spend a lot of time indoors, which could be harmful to their development. Many parents/guardians describe the reasons for a decrease in the amount of outdoor time relating to issues of physical safety, schedules, as well as easy access to video, computer, and television technology. Today, most Americans are highly organized, urbanized, and technologically advanced. This means that this society has “fewer opportunities to explore the natural world than did their ancestors, who raised livestock and farmed” (Bell et al., 2009, p. 15). For example, the teaching of science has been reshaped to merge news and entertainment media with museums, after-school programs, and computer games.
One study of the formal spaces of early childhood education and care centers found that most settings lacked natural, or outdoor, experiences for children. They also found that many education and teacher training colleges have an over-reliance on manufactured equipment, as compared to a ‘real’ outdoor environment with naturally occurring material (Kernan and Devine, 2010, p. 379).
Originally, teachers interviewed by Maynard and Waters (2007) said they had used the outdoor environment more than they have done in the past, although Maynard and Waters found this to be of a limited extent. Only when the weather was great did classes go outside, and when outside, the educators typically used teacher-directed tasks. These tasks only incorporated basic skills and subject knowledge. There was little or no use of the actual natural environment itself or the tools/objects found within it. Only one of the teachers interviewed for this study actually made reference of the possible benefits of both play and child-initiated activity within a natural outdoor environment (Maynard and Waters, 2007, p. 262).