School Business Affairs November 2020

12 NOVEMBER 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS FOCUS ON WELLNESS Creating Healthier School Communities Through Nature Now is the perfect time for schools to promote the benefits of nature. By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D., Courtney Schultz, Ph.D., and Teresa H. Horton, Ph.D. I t should come as no surprise that as we’ve lost our connection to nature, chronic health conditions have been on the rise. Research by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kid- ney Disease indicates that childhood obesity and diabetes are skyrocket- ing (NIDDK 2017); 33% of children in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Fryar, Carroll, and Ogden 2016). Mental health disorders have also increased, including anxiety, depres- sion, and suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI 2019), half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14. The CDC (2020) reports that 3% per- cent of children are diagnosed with depression by age 12, and 7% are diagnosed with anxiety by age 17, with a greater risk among children in lower socioeconomic groups. Sui- cide is now the second-leading cause of death among those ages 10–34 (NAMI 2019). What does all of that have to do with nature? Quite a lot, actually. Research studies by Wells and Evans (2003), White (2012), and others demonstrate the benefits of spending Even the youngest students benefit from being outside and interacting with nature. At Crellin Elementary School in Garrett County, Maryland, students help plant a garden. ALL PHOTOS ARE COURTESY OF CRELLIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, GARRETT COUNTY, MARYLAND