New program gets Joliet 4th graders moving, learning and outside

The program is a partnership with D. 86, the Joliet Park District and the University of Illinois Extension of Will County

Nature-deficient disorder is more buzzword than diagnosis.

But with more people spending more time in front of more screens, it appears Kermit the Frog was right. It’s not always easy going green.

That’s changing this semester for 100 Joliet Public Schools District 86 elementary students.

Fourth grade students from M.J. Cunningham, Edna Keith, A.O. Marshall, Isaac Singleton, and Woodland Elementary Schools are currently participating in the in the Kids ‘n Nature afterschool program at Pilcher Park and Birdhaven Greenhouse, according to a news release from District 86.

An additional session is planned for the spring, the release said.

The Kids ‘n Nature program, a six-week program, is a partnership with Joliet Public Schools District 86, the Joliet Park District and the University of Illinois Extension of Will County, the release said.

Activities will include “learning about different habitats and animals, touring the greenhouse, hiking, exploring Hickory Creek, gardening, archery and making art projects,” the release said.

Numerous studies suggest that spending time in nature may give learning, attention, and discipline a boost as well as relieve stress. Studies also suggest students may be calmer and more motivated and engaged in natural settings.

The National Wildlife Federation even began a Green Hour program to “encourage parents, schools, childcare centers, park agencies, camps, grandparents, and others to adopt a goal of one hour each day for children to play and learn outdoors in nature,” its website said.

Joel Sischo, District 86 program coordinator for physical education, health and athletics, said in the release that the program gives the students “a chance to see firsthand one of the beautiful natural parks the Joliet area has to offer.”

“We hope our students take some of the outdoor adventure education they have learned and use it to explore other area parks with their families,” Sischo added in the release.