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NATURE as a stress reducer

Nature-deficit disorder
is not a formal diagnosis, but a way to describe the psychological, physical, and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.
- Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods

natureTaking the class out of the classroom: for walks, for visits to parks, can provide a refreshing and uplifting change of pace for students who rarely have time to savor natural surroundings. According to teacher Jeri Bayer:

A third creative writing activity took place when I took my class to a lovely park next to the Mystic River on a recent morning when the weather was warm and sunny. Together we observed aloud what we were experiencing with our various senses and then wrote about the experience individually. I include some of these prose poems. My students loved being outside. They kept commenting on how relaxing it was for them. They said that it took away their stress!

- Jeri Bayer, The Welcome project, Somerville, MA


See Jeri's lesson plan and students writing samples from a nature visit: ESOL Students' Writing from Visit to Mystic River

Even when it is not easy to get out into nature, providing evidence of nature in the classroom - flowers, plants, a small fountain, goldfish - helps to soften the institutional feel of most classrooms and remind students they are not entirely cut off from their natural surroundings. Teachers have found that some local merchants are willing to contribute items (from flower shops, etc.) as a community contribution.

Many teachers in adult basic education lament, however, that they lack consistency in their classroom space -sometimes in one class, sometimes in another, depending on the space needs of their agency. One teacher said her classroom was a former janitor’s closet with no windows. For these difficult spaces, take a look at Classroom in a Bag, a description of ways to enliven and humanize dull, sub-par settings. Though these ideas do not solve the problem of bad space, they do send a message to students that they are worthy of beauty in their lives.