So outdoor learning, covid recovery, closing the attainment gap… all big buzz words at the moment. Education does enjoy the buzz words. But the thing is, outdoor learning can actually help support the other two and has a host of benefits. But what are they? And is there real evidence for these benefits? We are going to have a mini dive into some of the claims about outdoor learning and discover the truth of them!
Outdoor learning can help reduce stress and anxiety – true!
It has been found that heading outdoors for as little as 15 to 20 minutes three times a week helps reduce stress and anxiety. Kondo studied this back in 2018 and found that this was indeed the truth. But I often hear teachers say that they do not feel very calm outdoors. I hear you; I have been there with my own classes. But the cool thing is you will still be experiencing the benefits of it and so will your class. Think about your class at break times. I am going to guess their activities are not very zen. Yet those days where we have indoor breaks you really can see a difference. You do not need to be all relaxed and mindful to experience this benefit, it builds.
Time outdoors can improve academic results – true!
This has been known since 2003 after a study by Bartosh, it is old news. This study found that a walk outdoors for twenty minutes, even in urban areas, helped increase test scores. This is something I would often use when I was a teacher. If I knew my class were going to do cold writing assessments, SNSA’s or any other tests I would do all I could to get them some outdoor time beforehand – even if it was just walking the daily mile. Though, taking a lesson outdoors also had benefits. It is so simple but really makes a difference!
Being outdoors can help us connect – true
I always say being outdoors is a real leveller. We are all in it together, whether it is rain, sleet or snow (can you tell I am in Scotland, where is the sunshine?!) It helps us connect and pulls us into a team. But this is not only my experience, the 2011 study by Dowdell also found the same results. If my class were having relationship issues I would try and get them outdoors a little more as I knew it would help, and it did.
Being outdoors improves learning – true
The 2019 study by Kuo, Barnes and Jordan found exactly this. The government puts so much time and energy into closing the attainment gap; it has been studied since WW2! Yet there is such a simple way to improve learning and help narrow the gap, take learning outdoors. Is it too simple to be considered or just too far away from the bums on seats education system?
Time outdoors takes tons of planning, requires kit and has no impact – false, false, false
Yes, when you start doing something new or in a novel way it can take a little time and effort to get your head around it and make it work. Yet you have a huge advantage that I did not have when I started taking learning outdoors back in the noughties. You have a ton of ideas and resources available to you. Whether it is in the form of books (not just mine!), websites, Pinterest boards or more, you have so much guidance. And as for needing kit, nonsense. We always say take the backpack (have a wee search here for kit and you will find it). Outdoor learning can be simple. And as for it making no difference – just think about this post and what you have already read.
I can tell you a ton of anecdotes on why outdoor learning is beneficial, but I am asking you, why do you head outdoors?