We may have enjoyed a few more days of sunshine but as the weather moves away from warmth of summer and into more autumnal temperatures, we may ask why outdoor learning is a good idea. But here are 5 reasons why it is important.
It increases children and young people’s ability to think creatively and critically
In a fast-changing world, where many of the children will enter careers that simply do not currently exist, we need to teach children to think creatively and critically. This can be hard to do in the strict confines of a classroom. however, it is far easier within the open environment of the outdoors. Being outdoors can help equip our children with the skills they will need.
Time outdoors is shown to improve performance on standardised tests
As a teacher, I knew how amazing my kids were, but that did not always transfer into test results. However, taking children outside for just 20 minuted before a test is shown to improve test results. This is due to a range of factors. But, would you not like to be able to use a simple tool to improve your children’s results?
It can improve your own enthusiasm for learning
Yes, it may be new, it may be daunting but when you see how amazing your children are outdoors it really can motivate you. I will never forget a primary 3 pupil I taught. He had difficulty in spelling his name. He despised writing and it could be difficult to get much from him. Yet outdoors, his imagination came to life and his confidence shone through in a way it did not in the classroom. I will never forget the glee I felt when he tried to sound out and write “excellent” independently. If that was not motivational to me, I am not sure what would be!
It can help children develop an increase in awareness of sustainability issues
After the protests this week, there is no denying the world is changing and we need to start looking after it more. Time outside can help children develop an awareness of local and global issues and help develop a sense of place. Compliment this with the critical thinking skills which develop outdoors and we can help create a generation which understands sustainability issues and has an interest in them.
It is good for everyone, including the teacher
There is no denying that teaching is a very stressful profession. We make more decisions per minute than a surgeon needs to. There are increasing numbers of surveys which show teachers are some of the most stressed professionals. Yet it has been shown that 20 minutes outdoors can reduce stress and increase a sense of wellbeing. Teachers need to look after themselves and taking lessons outdoors can be a way of doing this.
So, why do you teach outside?
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Ballantyne, R. and Packer, J. (2002) Nature-based excursions: School students’ perceptions of learning in natural environments. International Journal of Geographical and Environmental Education 11 (3), 218–36.
Dyment, J.E., 2005. Green school grounds as sites for outdoor learning: Barriers and opportunities. International Research in Geographical & Environmental Education, 14(1), pp.28-45.
Lieberman, G.A. and Hoody, L.L. (1998) Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrated Context for Learning. Ponway, CA: Science Wizards
Rickinson, M., Dillon, J., Teamey, K., Morris, M., Choi, M.Y., Sanders, D. et al. (2004) A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research and King’s College London.
Yuen, H.K. and Jenkins, G.R., 2019. Factors associated with changes in subjective well-being immediately after urban park visit. International journal of environmental health research, pp.1-12.