A new study shows yet another good reason to regularly experience the outdoors: it boosts children’s brain development.
The study from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health has found that long-term exposure to green space during childhood is associated with structural changes to the brain that lead to improved memory and less distraction. Additionally, children who grew up in environments with more exposure to nature had more activity in the regions of their brain associated with learning and social skills.
I’ve seen in Scouting time and time again the ways that nature benefits youth. There is no better opportunity for kids to gain confidence than experiencing the great outdoors with their peers. The interesting question this study raises, though, is what the findings mean for the many young people growing up in urban environments with little access to green spaces. Thankfully, I know that in some communities, Scouting already is working to give more youth access to nature and the fun, life-changing experiences they may not get anywhere else.
Across the country, Scouting volunteers are bringing the experiences of our programs to urban communities and finding creative ways to introduce outdoor adventure to the city. For participants who may be doing activities like camping for the first time, it can be an adjustment. You may have seen the recent Scouting magazine story on Lauren Hopper, one of our volunteers who serves Troop 4, an inner-city group in the Mohegan Council. I was struck by her story of how an older Scout downloaded city noises on his phone to help some new Scouts fall asleep on their first campout when they weren’t used to the sounds of nature. I also remember the creativity of the Cradle of Liberty Council, which hosted an urban camporee in the middle of Philadelphia as a way to give urban youth a taste of Scouting closer to home.
I’m proud to say that similar stories can be found all across the country as Scouting is brought into underserved markets, and the core strengths of character and leadership development and outdoor adventures continue to shine through in different environments.
There is a small window to make a meaningful impact on children and shape who they may become as adults. Scouting helps families make the most of right now. I hope all of you will make the most of any opportunities you have for outdoor adventure.
Yours in Scouting,