National Children’s Mental Health Day
Today, May 5th is a special day for us here at Mountain Roots. National Children’s Mental Health Day is one that we recognize as a pillar of our approach to early childhood education.
It represents so much for us.
It represents the contemporary movement to legitimize, destigmatize, and medically identify what is going on with our children. It’s a socio-political shift that suddenly makes space between kids and their guardians for early intervention and treatment. It means mechanisms and mental health specialists can be intrinsically included in school budgets and systems.
And, I’m sure to all of the parents out there, you’re battling the same major competitor that we are as an organization: screens. Our kids are growing up in a totally different era than we did. Back in our dinosaur days we were lugging around actual books (I remember feeling ridiculous when my parents bought me a *rolling* backpack to help with the literal weight of it all).
Now, kids use computers. And when they’re not on their computer they’re on an ipad. When they’re not on an ipad they’re on a phone. When they’re not on a phone they’re playing a video game. When they’re not playing a video game they’re watching tv. You get the picture…it’s *way* too much.
As mainstream tech and respective digital platforms appear to be on an exponential trajectory, where is there time to just…be outside?
Classroom disruption…the good kind.
Do you remember a field trip you went on with your class for school? Me, too. I remember several, actually. However, I bet it’s a lot harder to remember what you were learning in class that week.
There’s a reason for that. Field trips disrupted your normal school day, removed you from your routine environment, and connected you with a particular subject matter. I bet you made some new memories with your friends and classmates, too.
Here at Mountain Roots, we think there’s really something to that.
So we built an early childhood education model, founded on the principle that shaking things up leads to qualities in our children that we want to foster: information retention, nature-enrichment, social development, self-awareness, and stable mental health. By way of a primarily kinesthetic/experiential curriculum, we seek to literally get kids out of their familiar four walls and moving around with each other…outside.
Mountain Roots has been in operation for well over a decade. I can attest that we have seen the truly astonishing effects that outdoor learning has for kids. In fact, in our programming, it’s not uncommon for us to phase back structure and let participants just play.
But, capturing data on the quantifiable impacts of our programs is another story (not to digress, but we’re not into adding more testing to students’ lives when there’s just so much outdoor play time to be had). Thankfully, the notion of outdoor enrichment for the benefit of kids’ mental status is not a new one.
Others have seen this, too.
They have even managed to measure what outdoor time does for a child’s mental health. And the results are about what we would expect…
Interacting with nature boosts mental health.
Not like this is a surprise, because A) that’s the title of this post and B) we’ve seen this occur with our own eyeballs.
A review published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health studied 35 papers that were each categorized to identify with one or more of the following:
1- Emotional wellbeing
2- Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
3- Overall mental health
8- Health-related quality of life (HRQL)
More than half of the 100 findings identified a positive correlation between interacting with nature and at least one of the aforementioned categories.
Specific to overall mental health, 8 out of 12 findings support more immersion and engagement with the environment.
Mountain Roots and mental health
The validation of our work is presented to us in various ways on the daily:
facilitating a program where kids get to go out onto their school campus and identify flowers together;
guiding an activity that requires communal coordination and communication…
It could be as simple as seeing a kid exhibit an enviable level of self-awareness when no one is looking.