Edgerton student is national Scholastic essay winner

May 22, 2019

Edgerton Elementary School fourth-grader Violet Mellin was selected as the grand-prize winner in the Outdoor Alliance for Kids Scholastic Contest.

Mellin’s persuasive essay “How Nature Improves the Brain” and accompanying illustration rose to the top of 2,000 entries. She was awarded a one-year National Park Pass, a five-day trip for up to four people to Olympic National Park in Washington and 6,000. Additionally, her teacher, Brad Nikunen, will receive a $500 in Scholastic credit.

Fourth- through sixth-graders were invited to submit persuasive essays to a government official explaining why the outdoors is important to them, accompanied by an illustration. The contest was created as an opportunity for students “to lift their voices” and “to have a forum for sharing their views,” according to www.scholastic.com.

Violet is the daughter of Norman and Marcie Mellin of Kalispell.

In her essay, she quotes marine biologist Rachel Carson, who said “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

Violet states that many U.S. citizens “don’t realize how fortunate they are to reside right by nature and experience the countryside consistently.” And she points out scientific research “has proven that surrounding yourself in nature increases human happiness.”

Her complete essay will be posted on the Daily Inter Lake website at www.dailyinterlake.com.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

Following is Mellin’s contest winning essay.

How Nature Improves the Brain

By Violet Mellin

American marine biologist Rachel Carson remarked in Silent Spring, “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature : the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Numerous citizens of the U.S. don’t realize how fortunate they are to reside right by nature and experience the countryside consistently. Whether experiencing nature virtually or in the real world, the effects nature has on your brain are immediate. Nature enhances one’s attention span, creativity and happiness while decreasing anxiety and stress levels.

Something I enjoy about nature is how peaceful it is. Activities such as fishing, camping and swimming are just some of the ways you can experience the outdoors. When I’m outside, I feel like the whole world is in balance. Studies show that being outside and a part of nature will decrease stress and make us more reassured. According to Jill Suttie, “The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces.” This means we were formerly adapted to dwell outside like every other creature on Earth.

Researcher Jill Suttie also mentions, “In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie, and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes, showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.” This quote indicates that exposure to nature will have a faster, more effective recovery from stress. However, people observing urban settings didn’t have a remarkable recovery from the stress-related movie. In conclusion, these studies have proven that people in nature have reduced stress levels and are less irritable than humans that live in an urban setting.

Further scientific research has proven that surrounding yourself in nature increases human happiness. The website Happy Brain Science states that, “Merely viewing nature scenes is enough to remind us of how expansive and soothing a direct experience with nature is.” This quote is significant because it tells us that urban settings don’t advance our psychological fitness as much as being outside does. Being in nature has an immediate positive effect on the mind. I feel that being in nature and listening to Mozart is the perfect combination because enjoying music while in nature is beautiful, peaceful and breathtaking.

Author Kevin Loria states, “One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be ‘useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments’ for major depressive disorder.” As Loria acknowledges, just taking a hike within a landscape can decrease amounts of anxiety. So nature has a tremendous effect on the mind and the mood.

Now let’s look at how nature affects the human attention span and the creative side of our brain. Nature can increase attention span and creativity level after devoting a short time outside. Kevin Loria states, “The attention-improving effect of nature is so strong it might even help kids with ADHD: they’ve been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park.” Based on this evidence, we see that children who suffer from ADHD can improve their attention span by experiencing nature. Loria further states, “Another study found that people immersed in nature for four days boosted their performance on a creative problem-solving test by 50%.” This evidence suggests that nature improves creativity.

In conclusion, nature has calming, healing and inspiring effects on the human brain. Nature has the potential to increase the attention span, creativity and happiness. It can also decrease levels of anxiety and stress. Parks and other outdoor spaces provide a place for people to enjoy nature. Nature inspires us to be visionary utilizing everything around us. Artists draw eye-catching landscapes, movie companies produce nature documentaries and people set aside land to let our natural world flourish. In the end, it’s impossible to deny the fact that parks and other outdoor spaces are places everyone should experience and appreciate.

Works Cited

Suttie, Jill. “How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative”. Greater Good Magazine. Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2019.

Author Unknown. “13 Science-Based Reasons That Suggest Viewing Nature Scenes can Improve Your Health”. Happy Brain Science. Web. 29 Mar. 2019.

Loria, Kevin. “Being Outside can Improve Memory, Fight Depression, and Lower Blood Pressure- Here are 12 Science-Backed Reasons to Spend More Time Outdoors”. Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. 22 April 2018. Web. 29 Mar. 2019.

Carson, Rachel, 1907-1964. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.