Nature can nurture academic success

Forget hours indoors spent

To bring up a motivated and healthy
student, parents are advised to encourage children out into the great outdoors.

Cayman’s temperate climate makes
giving kids a daily dose of nature easy and research suggests that giving them
access to green spaces, fresh air and plenty of sunlight can work wonders for
boosting academic performance, sleep quality, their mood and even reduce signs
of attention deficit disorder.

Research published in the Journal
of Environmental Psychology says that time spent appreciating the natural
environment be it in your back garden, or less formal open spaces such as the
Botanic Park or out in the sea can make us feel more in tune with nature, more
energised, and can translate into improved levels of motivation and capacity
for learning.

Tips for outdoor play

If you’re excited about going
outside, your kids will be, too, says Erika Daniels of the National Trust for
the Cayman Islands. She suggests limiting your children’s use of electronic
games and the television to encourage their appreciation of nature and to
improve their visual-discrimination skills.

Encourage your children to become
environmentally-aware by suggesting the family adopts a beach neighbourhood for
beach clean-ups for occasional clean ups. And scour the local media for outdoor
activities like scavenger hunts that children can take part in over the weekend.

Peak their growing interest in the
world beyond home and the classroom by investing in a few gadgets. Equip your
children with torches for exploring their yard at night, give them pocket
magnifying glasses and binoculars to observe bugs and small creatures and help
them pitch a tent in the backyard at the weekends.

Make outdoor activities a family
affair by going out and about with them, if you’re excited about the prospect
of being outside your children will be more likely to be so, too. Young ones
may enjoy a game of Alphabet Nature where they are asked to collect material in
alphabetical sequence. Get a fish identification sheet and go for a shallow
snorkel, visit rock pools and search out the many small crustaceans and tiny
marine life that inhabit the waters around Cayman. If you would prefer, go on
organised tours, there are several local organisations that can make exploring
Cayman’s natural environment both educational and fun.

Become a nature detective

Cayman Sea Elements has a number of
educational marine programmes which are ideal for learning more about the
diversity of sea life present in local waters either in the mangroves or in the
open sea.

The National Trust’s website is
another useful tool. Ms Daniels, says: “A guided walk along the Mastic Trail
with our field officer, Stuart Mailer, can be tailored to fit the attention
span and energy levels of children and families. He is very knowledgeable and
will show you the different types of flora and fauna that are living and growing
on the trail, which has been evolving undisturbed for millions of years.”

She also suggests that parents ask
teachers to include more outdoor school trips in their school curricula to
complement class-based lessons.

“I urge teachers and parents to view
our monthly calendar of events,” she says.

“I, for instance, run the Creepy
Crawlies at the National Trust Visitor Centre in Dart Park, South Sound.
Classes spend time in the park collecting nature specimens like bugs, leaves,
sea grapes, and small rocks which they bring back to the centre to look at with
the naked eye and then view through our digital microscope. The students then
take magnified pictures of their most interesting specimens using the
state-of-the-art microscope, which their teachers can then display in a nature

For further information about tours
and times contact, Cayman Sea Elements, at 925-2183; the National Trust for the
Cayman Islands at 749-1121 and visit the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme website