Hefty Chunk Of LA School Budget Will Create Green Spaces So Kids Can Get Outside
With new budget approvals, LA schools will increase outdoor education opportunities and add green spaces to schools.
Student overall health and well-being is a main concern of many school districts. From the youth mental health crisis to childhood obesity, school officials are seeking new ways to help children learn and enjoy the process. Due to new budget approvals, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will increase outdoor education opportunities and add green spaces to public school campuses.
Just getting outside has proven to offer many health benefits. Students receive a change of pace to combat boredom, hands-on learning through green spaces like school gardening programs, and learn to balance exercise with education. Combined, these approaches are likely to improve both student mental and physical health.
The Harvard School of Public Health published scientific findings which prove the health benefits of just being around trees and getting out in nature. Long-term depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline are all combated by being around trees. What’s more, it has been found that green spaces can even reduce the effects of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Whether mental and physical health is improved by being around trees because of increased physical activity, or the calming effects of nature is not entirely settled. What is known is that students are struggling after facing unprecedented challenges. In addition, the schools themselves are having difficulties. Chronic absenteeism, teacher shortages, and low test scores are plaguing districts across the nation. A report from the trust for public land noted that all of these areas of concern are improved upon when schools incorporate more green spaces.
Schools surrounded by concrete and asphalt are not as inviting as those which offer green spaces. They also do not encourage appreciation of the natural world, or combat extreme heat — which can be a serious issue for schools in southern California. By changing this and working to bring more green space to public schools, the LAUSD could save an estimated $600,000 per campus over the course of the next 20 years. This includes calculations regarding attendance and staff increases, as well as improved grades, but given that the district has 1,000 different schools, those savings would amount to $600 million within two decades.
The current budget approved $58 million toward creating green spaces and reworking curriculum to offer outdoor learning experiences. School officials are proud of the measure and eager to accept the changes that are to come. Teachers are happy to offer their students shaded natural areas that combat heat waves instead of being forced to keep children confined inside during high temperatures.
The director for the LA Trust for Public Land spoke about the need to aid the Black and Latino communities especially. The nonprofit is focused on improving the areas that affect these minority students first, in order to afford them better air quality and better access to engaging learning opportunities. A pilot project is scheduled to start this summer at Castellanos Elementary in the Pico-Union neighborhood. The area does not have many parks and the children there are most in need.
The pilot program’s success will determine how other green spaces are implemented. While the funding for this project is extensive, it is nothing compared to the long-term returns that are expected to grant generations of children positive learning experiences. Families and school officials are eagerly awaiting the expansion of these newly approved plans.