Psychological benefits of interacting with nature
Our vision for Canada is…to encourage school staff and student populations to engage with nature in their school spaces. The environment can be and should be used as a third teacher, especially as it relates to improving psychological mental well-being. If we work on beautifying the natural spaces in our schools, it will invite more students to venture out into the space to engage in mindfulness activities and further the cause of eco-education. We are one with nature.
1. Student leaders brainstormed inquiry question at the Our Canada Project Youth Forum; “How does nature impact one’s psychological well-being?”
2. Student leaders brought learning back to peers at school and organized a classroom presentation to share their inquiry question with peers. Students involved in program came from grade 10 healthcare class, grade 10 English and grade 10 History class.
3. Student leaders made list of items/plants to purchase
4. Student leaders ran a class on the impact of nature on psychological well-being. Students participating in this hands-on learning group project researched responses to the inquiry question.
5. Student leaders educated peers on the importance of caring for plants and how this in itself can be a way to relieve stress and anxiety.
6. Student leaders demonstrated transplanting process and facilitated mentoring session with peers. All class groups participated in the transplanting process.
Reflection & Celebration
The project has been a success so far, and the student leaders have really demonstrated strong leadership skills in advancing the dialogue about eco-literacy and mental well-being. The student census data in our school board shows that students need supports finding solutions to support mental health and well-being. This project allowed our student leaders to open up a space in our school which students can use to connect with nature in a positive and meaningful way. The staff have expressed interest in running classes outdoors and the students in the school have expressed an interest to spending time in the courtyard during their lunch breaks.
Challenges: We were waiting for the warm weather to come around to support growth with the plants, which took a bit longer than anticipated. That’s the only snag with the project so far.
From our presentations students learned that there was a positive value to engaging with the open spaces in the school. Feeling less depressed and less anxious was for sure cited as a positive outcome of our outdoor experience. The students loved the experiential learning components of it, and it was nice to see the tie-ins with the course curriculum for the various courses.
The classes which participated this year will continue to water the plants and the student leaders will be monitoring the growth of the plant population. In September, we hope to revamp our eco-club with the student leaders who attended the workshop.