Green Space at School Improves Child Health

Emerging research points to the benefits of a green environment to relieve stress and enhance physical fitness. A new concept gaining momentum in this realm is green schoolyards.

A growing body of evidence supports the claim that access to safe, natural areas improves health across a wide variety of areas, including heart health, mental health, weight management, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and stress among children.

A new study abstract, “Green Schoolyards Support Healthy Bodies, Minds and Communities,” presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, suggests green school yards can improve a child’s mental and physical health.

“Green schoolyards can include outdoor classrooms, native gardens, storm water capture, traditional play equipment, vegetable gardens, trails, trees, and more,” says Stephen Pont, M.D., MPH, FAAP, medical director, Dell Children’s Texas Center for the Prevention & Treatment of Childhood Obesity, University of Texas, Austin Dell Medical School.

“And outside of school time, these schoolyards can be open for the surrounding community to use, benefiting everyone.”

Green schoolyards offer an opportunity for children to experience a healthy outdoor environment as part of their daily lives. After school hours, they provide value to the entire community through improved health, higher rates of community and family engagement, and increased opportunities for active outdoor play and relaxation.

“Too many children have no access to quality school grounds. In many neighborhoods, the standard play space is a barren asphalt playground or a concrete slab surrounded by chain link fence — a completely unsuitable environment for children’s play,” says Richard Louv, Co-Founder of the Children & Nature Network.

For this study, researchers summarized the peer-reviewed scientific literature documenting green schoolyard benefits to academic outcomes, beneficial play, physical activity, and mental health.

To date, the research on the benefits of green schoolyards has enabled 5 cities to implement such projects in collaboration with the Children & Nature Network and the National League of Cities. These include Austin, Texas; Grand Rapids, Mich.; San Francisco, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; and Madison, Wis.

“So many physicians and health professionals choose to spend their free time in nature, but we often forget that nature can be a powerful health intervention for our patients, both for the prevention and improvement of many medical conditions,” says Dr. Pont.

“We should all be champions for kids and families getting more Vitamin N.”

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics