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Green schoolyards improve mental and physical health of kids

More and more studies are showing that access to safe, natural environments improves the overall health of children including heart health, mental health, weight management, and stress management. A new concept has emerged from this research that is known as a green schoolyard.

Stephen Pont is the medical director at Dell Children’s Texas Center and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at UT-Austin Dell Medical School.

“Green schoolyards can include outdoor classrooms, native gardens, storm water capture, traditional play equipment, vegetable gardens, trails, trees and more,” said Dr. Pont. “And outside of school time, these schoolyards can be open for the surrounding community to use, benefitting everyone.”

Green schoolyards offer children a healthy outdoor environment as part of their daily lives. Green schoolyards also provide value to the entire community by promoting improved health and higher rates of community and family engagement.

Richard Louv is a co-founder of the Children & Nature Network.

“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,” said Louv.

In collaboration with the Children & Nature Network and the National League of Cities, five cities have implemented green schoolyards as a result of the research. The study authors have documented green schoolyard advantages such as improved academic outcomes, physical activity, and mental health.

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

The research will be presented September 16th at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. The concept will be presented as, “Green Schoolyards Support Healthy Bodies, Minds and Communities.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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