Americans are spending sharply less time outdoors than even a decade ago, according to a recent report by an arm of the Outdoor Industry Association. And that should be as big a concern to schools and other civic institutions concerned about healthy development of kids as it is to the businesses catering to people who get themselves outside. Academic research linking exposure to nature with physical heath, mental health, focus, persistence and resilience piles higher practically by the day.
So we would argue that getting students outside, by finding teaching opportunities a bit closer to nature than the typical classroom is, is as critical to educational outcomes as up-to-date curricula, classroom technology and other arrows in school organization quivers. That’s why we talk every chance we get about getting kids outdoors, in January when it’s freezing and in July when it’s broiling, even though we know it isn’t easy.
As for Outdoor Industry Association data, slightly less than half of Americans surveyed did not participate in outdoor recreation a single time in 2018. And overall Americans went on 1 billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008.
That’s entirely consistent with the picture that Richard Louv paints in his landmark book Last Child in the Woods.