I grew up in Vermont, wrapped in nature, with a childhood of stream-hopping, puddle-jumping, tree-climbing, and digging deep into mud and dirt. Even though I loved burying myself in a book or sitting next to my record player with giant headphones on, there was no denying the power and draw of the grassy fields, dense woods, mucky ponds, and crisp streams that were the background of life in the Green Mountains. E.O. Wilson has described this attraction to nature as “biophilia” and views it as an inherent aspect of the human experience. We need to be around other types of living things.
A growing body of research is showing that regular interactions with nature can have a profound series of benefits for children. Spending time in the great outdoors is positively linked to improved health, coordination, focus, creativity and imagination, language development, collaboration skills, reasoning, resiliency to stress, and the development of independence and autonomy. My favorite threads of research also suggest that playing in nature leads children to interact more positively and socially with each other, and that the simple act of playing in the wild outdoors can greatly reduce bullying.
I don’t know whether these are examples of biophilia in action or not. I do know, however, that we see all these benefits and more on a regular basis during our daily extended outdoor times with our children. At Randolph, we don’t give kids a “recess” from learning and healthy social/emotional development, we offer them the deep nourishment of nature. Each child, every day.