Some are hyperactive. Some are distracted. Some are obese. Schools can improve both health and learning by reintroducing students to the natural world.
A few years ago, I was deeply moved by a photograph I saw on the back page of a magazine. It showed a small boy at the ocean's edge, his tracks receding in the wet sand toward the water. Beyond the sand, one could see a gray sky, a distant island, and a long, even wave in the beginning of collapse. The boy had turned to face the photographer. His eyes were wide and his mouth was open in an exclamation of discovery. He was a picture of joy.
This powerful black-and-white image was accompanied by a short article explaining that this child had a problem—he was hyperactive and could not pay attention. Because he disrupted the other students, he had been expelled from school. At first, his parents did not know what to do. But they were observant. They had already seen how nature calmed their son and helped him focus. Over the next decade, they seized every opportunity to introduce him to the natural world—to beaches, forests, and dunes as well as to the rivers and mountains of the American West. The little boy turned out fine. The photograph was taken in 1907. The boy's name was Ansel Adams.