The Teenage Dip in Nature Connection
It’s no secret that the younger generations appear to be deeply concerned with environmental issues. So much so that most kids, teenagers, and early adults feel under pressure to solve the ongoing crisis including climate change and ocean pollution. In fact, 80% of young people are eager to take action to help the environment. Given that 73 percent of young people support public protests to raise awareness of issues, people have a strong will and ability to drive change.
There is a sharp dip in people’s connection with nature from 11 years old. The youth that has been born in the “digital age” appears to be significantly more environmentally responsible and socially aware than all previous generations combine who appear to be less vocal and less optimistic about the future. Teens from various schools in the UAE are running micro-campaigns within their schools and communities to positively impact the environment.
Teenagers are engaging in pro-environmental initiatives
Take 12-year-old Sainath Manikandan, a student of GEMS United Indian School in Abu Dhabi as an example. The student has created a marine robot cleaner that can remove all kinds of plastic waste from the ocean, including microplastics. Thus far, Sainath has collected 8,000kg of plastic and 3,000kg of paper. Saimanish Prabhakar, a 17-year-old independent filmmaker from GEMS Metropole School, has won multiple awards for his green-centered short films, including one from the Los Angeles International Film Festival.
Following the footsteps of Gen Z, the most disruptive generation ever, the youth is highly interested in recycling, committed to saving water and energy daily, as well as donating money to charities or volunteering for activities that help preserve nature.
This is no surprise given that stronger nature connections are associated with improved health and wellbeing in children and teenagers. Consequently, kids who feel connected with nature are happier and more likely to befriend, help, and share.
How nature helps teens with mental health and stress-related issues
Out of the 30,000 Canadian adolescents, most of them express feelings of irritability, nervousness, depression, sleep disturbance, and frequent headaches. Compared with relatively indifferent teens, adolescents who rated their connection with nature as “important” had a 25% reduction in stress-related symptoms.
It’s those strong feelings of connectedness to nature that drive the youth to partake in pro-ecological behavior. Research has found that experiencing awe, such as one might feel while immersed in a breathtaking natural landscape, hiking, or spending time gazing at the view from a picturesque mountain encourages a sense of thankfulness and appreciation.
Teenagers who were provided with goal-based activities like volunteering became more mindful and conscious. ” A 15-minute visit to a green park, or a 3-day immersive forest vacation, relaxing in green spaces can have immediate, beneficial effects on your stress physiology,” mentions Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. This exposure to “green spaces” protect kids and teenagers alike from developing psychiatric disorders. That’s why Adventure Therapy is so beneficial for teens. With activities like rock climbing, the youth manages to explore their own strengths and weaknesses which creates helps them learn how to take calculated.
All the aforementioned reasons are exactly why now is the best time to embed sustainability into your classroom, school, and community to drive even more kids and teenagers to embrace nature and participate in green-minded actions. Through active environmental learning and environmentally-conscious practices within the school itself, students can obtain real-world skills they can use to improve the planet as well as improve their own health in the process.
Author: Konstantina Antoniadou
Originally written for Kapes.co