Students improve trails, build bee homes for Earth Day

Middle School librarian, academic technology specialist and Director of Environmental Sustainability Laurie Sears wrote this blog post about how Middle School students and faculty members forged a connection with the natural world through a series of service activities in honor of Earth Day.

On Thursday, April 21, the students and faculty of the Middle School participated in environmental community service activities with a wide variety of organizations in the region in recognition of Earth Day (Friday, April 22). On the first Earth Day, held April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Forty-six years later, the health and well-being of the environment and young people's connection to the natural world around them continue to be of vital importance.

Middle School students and faculty helped maintain local trails, built bee condominiums, preserved the health of the Potomac, and created attractive outdoor spaces for recreation and education. Working at Glen Echo mulching the picnic area and picking up litter in the Minnehaha Creek; learning about the issues surrounding the spread of invasive plant species and working on controlling them at Sligo Creek and with the Audubon Society and the Muddy Branch Alliance; and doing trail work at Great Falls helps our students connect with nature and understand their place in the world and the interconnected nature of all living things. Student also worked with the members of the Cabin John Creek Alliance, with the therapeutic horseback riding program Lift Me Up!, and on our own beautiful campus.

Raising the boys' awareness of the nature all around us will give them the impetus and ability to get out and about on the many trails and natural areas that we have in our own backyard. Few metro areas can boast the proximity and variety of parks, trails and outdoor spaces that we have. It is easy to forget that the majesty of Great Falls and the quiet beauty of the woods and creeks is right at our fingertips. Our Middle School Earth Day service activities helped raise the awareness of students and faculty to the opportunities available to them while allowing them to contribute to the health and maintenance of natural spaces all around them.

For many years research has provided convincing evidence in support of the common-sense idea that there are meaningful benefits from regular experiences in nature for young people. Among the findings are:

  • Spending time in nature buffers the impact of stress on children and helps them deal with adversity and develop social skills.
  • Contact with nature correlates with higher scores on tests of concentration and self-discipline.
  • Regular play in natural environments increases advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility.
  • Exposure to natural environments improves children's cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills.
  • Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity.
  • Outdoor environments help develop independence and autonomy.

So go take a hike! You can check out the boys' contributions and celebrate Earth Day 2016 on the trails and in the natural spaces all around us.