There is no shortage of data supporting the benefits of youth outdoor programs. Outdoor programs for youth can be particularly impactful for underprivileged and inner-city kids, many of whom don’t have the same opportunities to get outside due to geography or circumstance.
Youth Outdoor Policy explains this imbalance in opportunity - meaningful outdoor experiences are “highly dependent on a child’s zip code, upbringing, race, and their family’s financial resources. Because of this, there is an ever-widening gap between those who experience and benefit from the outdoors, and those who do not.” Because of this gap, the creation of outdoor programs for underprivileged youth is particularly important and valuable.
In the hopes of encouraging more people to create them, we’ve compiled a list of just 5 (of the MANY) benefits of outdoor programs for underprivileged youth.
Improved mental health
Time outdoors, and particularly time spent in youth outdoor programs, is highly beneficial for mental health. As Wilderness.org says:
Numerous studies have shown that nature is a truly healing place. Getting kids outside can enhance social behavior, help alleviate stress, promote optimal psychological functioning and improve recovery from physical trauma. In fact, many youth therapies involve getting kids outside.
Outdoor programs for youth can be specifically built to maximize these benefits. Inner-city and underprivileged youth can benefit from time spent away from the challenges of their daily lives.
Improved physical health
Many outdoor programs for youth celebrate getting kids outside for play and exercise, and with good reason! According to Youth Outdoor Policy, “children who play and learn outdoors are more active and physically fit, with decreased rates of obesity.” They continue to reveal that research suggests that getting youth outdoors can also impact a child’s:
- Core strength
- Balance and agility
- Gross motor skills
Outdoor programs for underprivileged youth have the opportunity to ensure that all children have access to these health benefits, regardless of socio-economic or geographical barriers.
Beyond the huge benefits to health and wellness, outdoor programs for underprivileged youth can help equip children with a wide array of problem-solving skills. Being outdoors brings potential problems that range from weather changes to physical needs. Simply working through those challenges creates opportunities for developing problem-solving skills. But outdoor youth programs can create learning opportunities that simply cannot be created in classrooms or other indoor environments.
Outdoor programs also allow youth to learn to take risks (safely) and learn the rewards of persistence. In a study from Northwestern University, Leslie Morrison explains:
With outdoor learning, such as a wilderness challenge, students work collaboratively on projects. They can quickly identify mistakes and make modifications, since the learning experiences are so immediate and concrete. Students often draw on skills that they likely don’t exhibit in a traditional classroom, which builds confidence and excitement for learning. Outdoor learning offers students a new way of discovering how failures can lead to new understandings.
These lessons can be particularly beneficial for underprivileged youth, who studies show, are frequently risk-averse and afraid of failure.
Increased academic performance
Outdoor programs for underprivileged youth benefit their participants by increasing their academic performance. In fact, research is quite clear that this is a benefit to most who participate in youth outdoor programs. Youth Outdoor Policy summarizes these academic benefits:
- Kids who participate in regular environmental education and outdoor learning opportunities have higher academic achievement.
- Regular physical activity, which tends to be greater outdoors, improves brain function in children.
- Kids who learn and play in natural environments have better performance in reading, math, science and social studies.
- Children who have regular access to the outdoors have enhanced creativity and executive function, fewer behavior problems, and increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning.
Spending significant time outdoors can help children learn more about more environmental issues and the importance of the world around them. Outdoor programs for inner-city and underprivileged youth can create real and lasting connections with nature and the environment. This study from the North American Association for Environmental Education indicates that “youth programs that effectively enhance participants’ connectedness with nature can be very important in building a population that feels a sense of care, responsibility, and stewardship for the environment.”
If you are interested in creating these opportunities and benefits for children, you may consider creating a youth outdoor program in your area. We started the Tru Flask Adventure Club™ to help foster a love of the outdoors in youth, primarily from underserved and overlooked communities. We work with schools and nonprofits to facilitate outdoor activities and events for kids within these communities. We’d love to partner with you!