Michigan’s children will find a lifelong appreciation of nature, by experiencing, and exploring nature through outdoor play and education.
Bird calls, bubbling creeks, cicadas, grasshoppers, butterflies and wildflowers have been the delight of children for generations. In years past, whether rural, suburban, or urban, children’s natural curiosity led them to an outdoor world full of adventures, holding caterpillars, swinging on tree limbs, capturing lightning bugs, discovering life in the cracks of sidewalks, or creating imaginary worlds outdoors. Play and exploration outdoors has been as much a part of children’s early development as reading or writing. The simple act of outdoor play also fostered in children a personal connection to nature and shaped a sense of place. Today the barriers and challenges to children’s ability to play and explore outdoors are mounting. Children are more restricted in their movements and have less free time and the free time they do experience is often disconnected from nature.
The fact that outdoor play and exploration is essential to the physical and mental well being of our state’s children has been well established. Studies have shown that children who regularly play outside are more creative, have improved attention spans and test scores, and show fewer signs of obesity. Outdoor experiences are also critical in building the next generation of conservationists who will be committed and engaged in protecting our natural resources legacy.
We also know through research that natural settings can improve children’s learning by increasing retention, reducing stress and offering hands-on opportunities that make educational subjects relevant to their lives.
As Michigan’s population becomes more diverse with people from many cultures, everyone despite their income level or social standing should have opportunities to learn and understand the benefits nature offers. We need to develop a variety of opportunities to experience the great outdoors. This is particularly true in urban areas where residents may be inhibited by the distance to play areas or by safety concerns.
It is our belief that all children in Michigan should have access and opportunity to safely enjoy Michigan’s outdoor heritage. We also believe that access to learning in natural settings is a key to increased understanding and retention of educational subject matter and improved educational achievement. The members of the Michigan No Child Left Inside Coalition are committed to working in partnership to rekindle the connection between our children and nature by promoting activities and policies for outdoor play, recreational opportunities, hands-on environmental education, and increased knowledge about nature.