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Connection Corner

Engagement in nature helps youth academically

little boy sitting outside looking through binaculars

Allowing children to be engaged in nature has long been known to have physical and emotional benefts (Children and Nature Network, 2014), however, one area less commonly discussed is the benefit to young people academically.

Dr. Ming Kuo, founder of the University of Illinois Landscape and Human Health Laboratory, describes six benefits to youth academically including improved attention, reduced stress, increased self-discipline, more engagement, increased physical fitness, and more social connection and creativity (Kuo, 2019). Kuo stresses the importance of bringing nature and the classroom together whenever possible. 

There are many wonderful resources for teachers and families to help children connect with nature.

  • Purdue Extension created a wonderful free resource for teachers titled, “Benefits of Connecting with Nature." This includes four activities that focus on the relationship between nature and mental health.
  • National Environmental Education Network has a collection of apps for educators and families for Environmental Education and Outdoor Activity.
  • Children and Nature Network have an amazing compilation of resources to help families connect more with nature.
  • One great resource for fourth-grade students, their families, and classrooms is “Every Kid Outdoors”. It is a program of the National Parks that allows fourth graders and their families could discover the nation’s wildlife, resources, landscapes, and history for free.


Judy Schmidt provides leadership to 4-H metro programming in Peoria County. Schmidt joined Extension in 2001, working as a Youth Development Educator at the East Peoria Center and joined the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit in 2011. Her work focuses on 4-H youth development programming in the local metropolitan area, specifically leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Her areas of expertise include positive youth development principles, youth leadership, and work with teens as teachers.

Schmidt attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her bachelor's degree in psychology and also for her master's degrees in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a certified facilitator of the Matrixx System/Real Colors program by the National Curriculum and Training Institute.

Connection Corner is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.