Children demand green time over screen time, survey suggests

As many families start half term holidays, a new survey of school pupils has found a desire to spend more time outdoors.

three people sitting on a bench in a park

According to the poll, conducted by School Food Matters, a charity that wants to see a garden area in every school, 55% of primary and secondary students said they wanted to have more opportunity to engage with nature as a reward for good work, rather than being given free time on a computer. Two-in-three, or 66%, felt they do not get enough time outside, and 37% have never seen fruit or vegetables growing. According to a 2020 review of more than 186 studies, undertaken by the University of Adelaide, time spent in nature is shown to improve mental health and academic attainment among young people.

Meanwhile, introducing gardens to schools can also provide an opportunity to help pupils become familiar with food cultivation, which can help boost their physical health and understanding of the benefits of localism. Most primary schools do have these facilities on site, but due to funding limitations many are unable to make the most of the opportunities such spaces offer.

‘Our school is so fortunate to have an amazing rooftop garden, partly funded by School Food Matters. It really is an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle. The garden is used all year round to support the children with their learning, and plays a vital role in their emotional well-being. We also use it to help children have a calm transition back into class if they’re ever feeling angry or upset,’ said Shanaz Rahman, Learning Mentor at Robert Browning Primary School in Southwark, London.

‘Over the past 15 years we have worked in thousands of schools and we are passionate about getting children outdoors, learning how food grows. We want every child to understand the benefits of good food for their health and happiness and one of the best ways to engage children and young people is to get them to grow food themselves, have fun and explore their natural world. Our new survey backs up what we see every day in schools; children really value access to nature, and too many know little or nothing about where their food comes from,’ added Stephanie Slater, Founder and Chief Executive of School Food Matters.

More on green spaces and wellbeing: 

Mental Health Awareness Week: Climate anxiety rocketing, green space helps

WATCH: Greening schools to combat the Paris urban heat island

Nature can boost mental health, finds Wildlife Trusts


Image: Vitolda Klein



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