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Zachary Matteson
Deby Jizi
UWRT 1102
April 13, 2016
Research Essay
As a child I always loved to go and play outside. At my first house in Virginia, my dad
built a tree house in the woods near the house. I remember going up there all the time with my
friends in the neighborhood and playing games. When I moved to North Carolina, the property
that our house was on backed up to public game lands and Falls Lake. My dad and neighbor,
Vince, would take my brother (Gabe), sister (Erica), and I for hikes back to Falls Lake. There
was a biking trail that was not far back in the woods that would bike all around the woods. We
created a trail from our house to the preexisting trail in the woods so that my brother and I could
walk back to the lake whenever we wanted to without adult supervision.
Gabe and I would hike back to the lake all the time with our fishing gear and we would
fish for hours and then walk back. Other time my brother and I would just hike around the woods
and explore places that we had never been before. We found an old abandoned farming complex
from a long time ago in the middle of the woods that was very overgrown. There was a building
that looked like it could be a house and only had one room inside. The house which was
surrounded by other structures, one being a barn. My neighbor Vince was big into hunting and
soon got my brother hooked on deer hunting. I would always go and scout the woods with them
looking for signs of deer. When Vince and Gabe went hunting I would usually not go because I
didnt like to sit still for a long time for the possibility see a deer. When they would shoot a deer,
I would always help with the processing. I have recently got into duck hunting in swamp which I

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like a lot because you can move around, call for ducks, and its an adrenaline rush when you are
shooting at ducks flying around you.
Growing up around other various types of kids, I have begun to notice that kids are
staying inside more and are going outside into the woods less. Now not all kids stay inside all of
the time, but with the advances in technology, electronic devices are now in the hands and in
front of about every child. I have also learned from the news over a long period of time that child
obesity rates are increasing. I got thinking about how kids increasing weight might be liked to
them being inside all of the time. I was wondering what affects the woods has on people, mainly
children, both mentally and physically and the steps that are being taken to integrate more kids in
the woods.
Child obesity rates have nearly tripled over the past 30 years to the point where about one
in every three children are considered overweight or obese. The growth rate in childhood obesity
is so alarming that even the first lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, has
started a movement to help get child obesity under control called Lets Move. This movement
is aimed to get children to start being more active. With the rise of obesity in children comes a
rise in the negative health risks that obesity brings such as cardiovascular disorder or joint
problems. No Parent or sibling wants to see a loved one in discomfort or the hospital for any
reason especially if there was something that could be done to help it.
Society also tends to discriminate against heavier people because they are physically
different from others. This tends to happen the worst to kids as they go through middle and high
school. This causes low self-esteem which can lead to mental disorders such as depression. This
can be carried through adulthood which is a bad way to live. Also kids that have family problems
in their homes can have a lot of negative experiences that all pile up inside them until they reach

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their breaking point. Being in the woods brings the feeling of being in another world where any
real problems or stresses dont exist. The woods gives kids the opportunity to figure out
problems for themselves and escape reality.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Naturedeficit Disorder, Coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder which describes how kids are
growing more distant from nature (10). While this term is not an actual medical term, Louv, uses
this term to compare kids that rarely or never go in the woods to kids that do go in the woods.
Louv also says that nature provides kids with a place to escape from anything in their lives and
that nature encourages kids to learn on their own and be creative (7). This fits with my inquiry
because the term nature-deficit disorder is used by just about everyone who researches this topic.
Louv also raises a good point about how kids can escape their lives at home and step into a
virtual reality where they can learn for themselves. This also makes me question the idea that
kids may learn things better when they can learn it by themselves because humans are naturally
curious creatures and we are instinctively learning by what happens around us.
Martha Driessnack points out in her journal Children and Nature-Deficit Disorder that
the woods Improve cognitive skills, Problem solving skills, and self-discipline (1). These are all
skills that are important for anyone to have as they are constantly used in everyday life.
Driessnack also says that being out of the woods can lead to obesity and impaired social skills.
She points out that adults are partially to blame for kids being out of the woods because adults
supervise most of a kids day from driving them to and from school, to adult supervised
afterschool sports (1). Every parent wants their kid to be safe, so parents are constantly
supervising them and according to Driessnack, some parents let their kids play with technology
inside because it is safe and there are unknown threats in the woods (1). This is important to my

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inquiry because it shows me that the woods improve skills that kids use every day and not just
getting them active. It also showed me that being in the woods improves self-discipline which is
very important for any kid to have. This is another good reason for kids to go in the woods more
often. The author also brings up the good point about how adults are partially to blame for
keeping kids out of the woods that I would not have thought of. This makes me wonder how the
woods improves self-discipline and how it can improve social skills.
Another study I found was done in a high school in Sweden to find out if there was a
connection between how kids learn and retain information, and being outside. Some classes were
taught mathematics and biology outside while different classes of the same grade level were
taught the same material inside a normal classroom by the same teacher. Emilia Fgerstam
looked at the study and the results of the study which showed that kids, which learned outside,
tended to retain more information long term than the students in the classroom setting. When
asked about what they learned in the class, the kids that had class outside used more course
specific words and could talk about the topic better than those who learned inside. Fgerstam
interviewed the students that learned outside and asked them why they thought they did better
and the kids all said that the clean air and the constant movement outside made the students more
engaged and focused on learning. Fgerstam also notes that working in groups outside improved
the social skills of the student due to the students having to communicate with their other group
members (1).
This is important to my inquiry because this shows me that kids learn better in an outdoor
environment and that students that learn outside retain more information. This is a mental
advantage that kids get with being outside in nature. It is also good proof that something can be
done by the school system to integrate the outdoors more with the school, and that it will help the

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students learn better. This has made me wonder if students would do better in all subjects if they
learned them outdoors or if it only works well with math and biology because they both talk
about nature and how things in nature work. This was also a small sample of students from one
high school in a different country from this one, so I am also intrigued to see if this trend holds
true when a big study is done and if it is the same in different parts of the world.
Another study was done which tried to find a connection between the distance a kid is
from a public outdoor space when they are growing up and their BMI (Body Mass Index) at the
beginning of adulthood. This study was done by several people including Jennifer Wolch who
has her PHD in urban planning so I assume this study was also to see how important public
outdoor spaces are to community health. Both male and female test subjects were studied for 7
years, until they were age 18(1), on how close they lived to public outdoor spaces and how they
used them. The results showed that there was a strong connection between a kid growing up less
than a mile from a public outdoor area and having a low BMI score when they were 18 (1). This
is related to my inquiry because this shows that the closer and more access a kid has to nature the
more physically fit they will be when they are older. This study proves that growing up around
nature is important to the health of the individual in the long run. As I have never lived in an
urban city, I wonder how prevalent kids not being able to get to nature is in big cities. I also
wonder what can be done in or around major cities to get kids closer to nature.
After doing the research on my inquiry I have found that Richard Louv has a lot to do
with the research that is being done in this field. In His Book Last Child in the Woods: Saving
Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder He points out a lot of the main positive mental
impacts that the woods have on children like improving cognitive skills and creativity. He also
talks about how being in the woods provokes movement which helps with obesity. Louv brings

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up the other main point that the woods serves as a virtual reality for kids that may have bad
things going on in their lives and allows them to think for themselves. In his book he coined the
term nature-deficit disorder which is talked about and used in almost all current information on
this topic as a way to describe kids not being in nature as much. He also talks about how the
boom in the amount of technology over the past couple of decades has moved kids away from
nature. For example where kids from our parents generation walked or rode a bike to school,
kids nowadays are in cars surrounded by technology or kids from older generations played
outside because they had nothing to play inside, but now kids have all sorts of technology to
entertain them inside. The information that he proposes is elaborated on by other sources and
proven through different studies, but the essential information is still the same; the woods do
improve a kids mental health and abilities, and improves overall physical health by provoking
movement and staying in shape.
After researching about the health benefits of being out in the woods as kids, I now see
how big of a problem it really is in todays society. It has made me more inclined to go outside
and to get others to come with me that normally wouldnt. It also has shown me that when I have
kids someday, I am going to push them to play outside all the time and learn for themselves in
the woods. I hope this will help show others that being outside, mainly as kids, has a big positive
effect on their overall health. I also hope that people will see that we as humans are growing
apart from nature and it is beginning to have negative effects on people because we, just like
every other species on this planet, are connected to and depend on the nature that surrounds us. If
I had more time to research this topic I would look into other ways that I could get involved in
getting people outside more. I am curious to see how we distance ourselves in the next couple of
decades from nature and if any of the efforts today are having lasting impact.

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Peer Review By Malone Jarvis


Things to look for.
High school Sweden study seems long.
-

Yes it may be a bit longer but I dont think it creates a problem being so. You spend
time explaining and the purpose of the study and then how it relates back to your
topic of inquiry. It all was relevant information and you were not being really
repetitive, so I think the length is fine.

Beginning story seems long compared to rest of paper


-

I dont think so. You were explaining your story of why you are interested and came
about your inquiry research. It could be shortened down a bit if you are worried
about it but I believe it is fine. If you shorten it too much you wont get your point
across as well about how your inquiry relates to you personally.

One other thing is that it was a bit confusing in the beginning when you crossreferenced nature and the woods, because nature is the broad term while the woods is
really specific. However it became clear once I understood what your inquiry was
about but in the beginning it threw me off a little bit.
Works Cited

Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic PUBLISHED June 30, 2013. "Connecting With
Nature Boosts Creativity and Health." National Geographic. National Geographic
Society, 30 June 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
Driessnack, M. (2009), Children and Nature-Deficit Disorder. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric
Nursing, 14: 7375. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6155.2009.00180.x

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Fgerstam, E., Blom, J., (2013). Learning biology and mathematics outdoors: Effects and
attitudes in a Swedish high school context. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor
Learning, 13(1), 56 - 75.
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder.
Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2005. 7-14. Print.
Wolch, J., Jerrett, M., Reynolds, K., McConnell , R., Chang, R., Dahmann, N., Brady, K.,
Gilliand, F., Su, J. G., Berhane, K., (2011). Childhood obesity and proximity to urban
parks and recreational resources: A longitudinal cohort study. Health & Place, 17, 207214.