In today’s world, it seems more apparent than ever that children are slowly losing their ability to use their instincts, senses. As a result, there has become a significant decrease in the ability to touch, smell, walk, climb and experience more from the world around them, mainly due to the confined environment of classroom teaching and the use of digital devices.
Learning is rapidly changing from day to day and the skill set of today is very different from that of even five years ago. It is becoming more of theoretical, image-based representation of the modern digitalized world, instead of the world itself. There is nothing wrong with that, it is the way of the world, the future, but the balance should be harmonised to reap the rewards of both points of view.
To counteract the increased rise in sedentary lifestyles, child obesity and growing concerns surrounding our mental health. Schools and other educational establishments around the world are beginning to take decisive action and see the beauty and endless possibilities of educating their students outside the traditional classroom.
Having done this myself, for many years in the UK and based on my own experience, running a Forest School and Outdoor residential visits. I have identified four key benefits that outdoor activities will bring to our educational practice and environment.
Being active and spending more time getting up and moving around outside is exceptionally good for all children and it is extremely important for their overall levels of good health and well-being. Reading information from books, the internet and research will further support this viewpoint.
Studies published in the International Journal of Obesity found that by adopting an outdoor education-based program, it can play a pivotal role in promoting a more positive learning environment and can significantly contribute towards avoiding growing health issues like childhood obesity and poor mental health.
Author Richard Louv uses the phrase “nature deficit disorder” to explain the harmful effects on our children and how too much indoor over-stimulation, including attention-deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, and yes, obesity can increase due to the lack of time spent outside, in the fresh air.
Richard Louv goes on to explain, “As young people spend less of their time in natural surroundings, their senses begin to rapidly narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and we effectively deny them access to a fundamental part of their humanity.”
So much so, the proliferation of electronic communications; poor urban planning and disappearance of open spaces, all contribute and have a significant and detrimental effect on our health and well-being. Nature-deficit disorders contribute to the diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses.
It is clear that society’s nature-deficit disorder can actually be reversed and with the inclusion of regular exercise, fresh air, a sense of freedom and a positive approach to the everyday things we do, can have significant and worthwhile benefits to our overall health and well-being.
How We Communicate
Communication and how we communicate with each other is an integral part of life. How we do this is for ever-changing, especially as technology begins to grow and grow. However, much technology grows; communication will always remain a fundamental part of our existence and it is something that must be acknowledged.
By continually raising the profile and awareness of how we communicate is essential, and undertaking learning within different learning environments can lead to many positive outcomes for children and adults.
Pupils working individually, in a team, or on a problem-solving activity can lead to the positive inclusion of group discussions. It also provides the ability to share new and exciting ideas, meaningful feedback and allow for conflicts/disagreements to be handled positively.
The outdoor environment provides the perfect setting for all of the above and many other opportunities that can be used.
How We View The Environment
In today’s world, it is fair to suggest that our wider global environment is under attack from our own actions and the ignorance to recognise the problems that we have created.
By spending more time in the outdoors, we begin to recognise and understand more about what is all around us. We show higher levels of appreciation of what we have, how it got there and begin to know that is down to us, as humans to sustain it.
Education plays a significant role, and by moving our learning into such environments, we begin to naturally acknowledge more about our environment and the world we live in. From my own experience as a Teacher, working in education, children positively embrace new outdoor learning opportunities. They quickly establish meaning and begin to make connections in a more meaningful and logical way. If we can develop this further and begin to create more opportunities, then our new approach to learning will have benefits on how we view our environment and begin to change our own attitude and behaviour.
Establishing and maintaining higher levels of self-confidence and self-reliance is essential for us as humans, and it is something that often becomes stifled due to the learning environment we find ourselves in, and it is one change which no traditional classroom can bring to a student. This can only be altered, and learning benefits fully acknowledged if the learning environment is changed. An outdoors-based learning program enables this, and when pupils are allowed to spend more time in the outdoors undertaking worthwhile activities, the increased levels of self-confidence and self-reliance become more evident.