Experts speak of importance of playing in nature again

Santiago, November 03, 2016 – The II International Seminar on Reconnecting Children with Nature: A Look at Public Spaces and Education, which takes place today at the Faculty of Architecture of the Universidad Católica, has as its goal the promotion of connecting children with nature to improve their development, learning, well-being and health.

The event brings together several national and international experts who will present their experiences in the creation and/or conversion of outdoor areas for education, public and private urban parks and therapeutic gardens, in addition to speaking of the importance of the participation of children in the design and execution of these experiences.

“Children living in cities are increasingly more distant to nature, due to a significant decrease in green areas as a consequence of the urbanization of spaces. This has directly affected the physical and mental health of children”, explains Daniela Casanello, Director of Ecoplan, one of the organizers of the event.

This phenomenon has been described by researcher Richard Louv as “the nature deficit syndrome”, which is also leading to a decrease in concern and respect for the environment. There are various studies that show that direct contact with nature improves children’s cognitive performance, their self-esteem and concentration, helps them feel free and relaxed, and reduces aggressive behavior, stress and symptoms of chronic attention deficit or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In addition, Karen Malone – Deputy Director of the Center for Educational Research of the University of Western Sydney and one of the speakers at the seminar – has stated that “to play in nature is not only valuable in itself as a recreational activity, it is also a process through which children learn. They increase their ability to solve problems, develop communication, cooperation, creativity, personal responsibility and imagination”.

“Children today spend most of their time in kindergarten/school classrooms, without moments of connection with nature other than those spent during recess, in those establishments that have gardens. Direct and conscious interaction with the natural environment is scarce and must be reversed urgently”, stated Sonia Cox, Executive Director of Fundación Ilumina, organizer of the event.

Diego Urrejola, Executive Director of Fundación Ilumina, stressed the importance of generating moments such as these, which help to establish – in the private and public sectors – the importance of connecting with nature and creating appropriate spaces for it. “The natural environment must once again be the protagonist of the spaces in which we inhabit, for which the different sectors and actors of society must be willing to create and restore new quality green areas”.

The seminar is attended by leading international experts such as Dr. Karen Malone and Dr. Julie Rudner, both from Australia; Dra. Ingunn Fjørtoft of Norway and Dr. Keitaro Ito of Japan, in addition to important national speakers who, together, will lay the groundwork to reflect and discuss the main challenges currently facing the sustainable and comprehensive development of children in the country.

The II International Seminar on Reconnecting Children with Nature: A Look at Public Spaces and Education, is organized and sponsored by the Faculty of Architecture of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, MAPA (Master of Landscaping of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), Fundación Ilumina, EcoPlan, Fundación Cosmos and Fundación Ibañez Atkinson. It is also sponsored by the National Council for Children, the National Nursery Schools Board (JUNJI – Junta Nacional de Jardines Infantiles), La Trobe University and UNICEF.