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Let me out the door, please!

The study revealed that many children are not getting that break. On average, researchers discovered that 30 percent of school children had little or no daily recess opportunities.

Another report found that 40 percent of schools surveyed had cut back at least one daily recess period. It also revealed that teachers commonly punish children by revoking recess privileges.

Dr. Barros described such actions as illogical. "Recess should be part of the curriculum," she explained. "You don't punish a kid by having them miss math class, so kids shouldn't be punished by not getting recess."

Harvard researchers back up such claims. A report in The Journal of School Health indicates that the more physical fitness tests children passed, the better they achieved on academic tests. The study, conducted with over 1,800 middle school students, suggests that children can benefit academically from physical activity during gym class or recess.

The Harvard study confirms earlier research that found exposure to nature enhances a child's ability to focus.

British educators have long recognized the importance of providing children with regular outdoor breaks. They found that children function at a higher level after exposure to the outdoors. After a short break outdoors, children exhibit greater creativity and possess more cognitive skills.

Pay attention, naturally

Researchers believe that the reason children perform better after exposure to the outdoors may be that the brain utilizes two distinct forms of attention.

"Directed" attention allows us to concentrate on topics such as work, reading and tests, while "involuntary" attention takes over when we're distracted by things like a driving rain, trees blowing in the wind, or a stunning sunset. I guess it really wasn't my fault, that I was always "involuntarily" looking out the window,.

A growing body of evidence indicates that exposure to nature is also very beneficial for children with attention deficit disorders. In the process of enjoying such naturally captivating scenes as waterfalls, these children allow their brain's directed attention the opportunity to rest.

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