Using Time in Nature to Get Your School Year Off to a Terrific Start

Photo: Jo Hackl

This year presents unique challenges for educators, students, and parents. As we navigate the new normal, why not try a proven technique to reduce stress and increase overall well-being? It turns out that spending time outdoors (even for a few minutes) can help you to do just that. Here’s a summary of some of the growing body of research supporting the benefits of exposure to nature.

Below are some easy ideas to help you incorporate nature into your day. They can not only help to make your day better, but also benefit your entire family.

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

 

1. If possible, eat breakfast outside or by a sunny window. Exposure to sunlight helps you wake up and the sights and sounds of nature help set the mood for a productive, calm day.

 

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

 

2. Whether you’re working at home or going to school, include something from nature in your workspace. Even a simple photograph from nature pasted on the inside cover of your notebook can help you relax if you get stressed.

 

 

3. Unwind at the end of your school day by taking a walk outside. This helps you clear your mind and relax your body.

                              

Photos: Jo Hackl

 

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

 

4. Consider keeping a nature journal. Your journal doesn’t need to be anything fancy. All you need is something to write on and a pen or pencil to record things that interest you in nature. You might try sitting in the same spot every day and noting how the things you see, hear, feel and touch change over the course of the seasons.

 

 

5. Plan your weekend around outdoor activities. It’s easier to maintain social distance outdoors and outdoor activities provide a fun way for your family and friends to make memories. If you’d like to take things a step farther, join me in the practice I’ve maintained for over 25 years—every Sunday I unplug from technology and spend as much time as possible outdoors. My family and I hike. We garden. We take nature photographs. We don’t think about work or school. And that one simple habit makes an enormous difference in our week.

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

If you can’t get outdoors, you can read books with natural settings. In addition to classics such as Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, and Island of the Blue Dolphins

                                                                                 

 

Below are some other wonderful books set outdoors:

 

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry takes readers on a journey with a wolf separated from his family who embarks upon a thousand-mile journey to find a new home. Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan, calls it “[r]iveting and lyrical . . . a vibrantly imagined celebration of the natural world.”

 

 

 

 

Pax by Sara Pennypacker takes readers on an adventure with Peter, who sets out to reunite with his pet fox. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it “at once a wilderness adventure about survival and a philosophical foray into big questions.”

 

 

 

 

The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence takes readers on an adventure with two boys who must survive on their own in the Alaskan wilderness. The Horn Book Review calls it “[a]n emotionally engaging and heart-pounding read.”

 

 

For more information to help you explore the natural world, check out our STEM Tuesday section. You also can find more ideas (and cites to more research supporting the benefits of time in nature) at www.Outdooorosity.org. I grew up in the country and experienced the benefits of spending time outdoors. Years ago, this convinced me to create Outdoorosity as a free resource. These recent months have demonstrated more and more the value of making time to get outdoors to refresh and recharge. And doing so is good for all the people in our lives.

Jo Hackl
Jo Watson Hackl has been locked inside a library twice (mostly accidentally)but never has been able to manage sneaking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an overnight stay. Jo grew up in the piney woods of Mississippi surrounded by great storytellers. Her middle grade book, SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF MAYBE (Random House Children’s/Yearling Adventure) is about a girl who runs away to live in a treehouse in a ghost town and sets out on a clue-solving adventure. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina with her family and her poetry-loving dog.
1 Comment
  1. Thanks for this! Great suggestions. I write in a treehouse mostly because being outside helps me concentrate, encourages me to breathe deeply and look around and feel gratitude for the natural world. And part of why I write nature based books is because I want young readers to love the wilderness and feel connected to it!