School was so inspiring
During my childhood and Primary Schooling, back in the 1980s. I have clear and distinct memories of how cool my school was with my local Primary School being a diverse and exciting place, where I was not only lucky enough to be inspired by the world around me, but also by the bold and inspirational individuals who led us along this beautiful learning journey.
It was a memorable time and something I shall not forget even if I didn’t always pay attention in class.
As an educator and now part of the ‘ticking boxes’ brigade and continually buying into a whole school vision that doesn’t always necessarily suit all learning styles, I feel that in the constant pursuit of raising overall standards part of your childhood is significantly lost each day, due to constraints and misunderstanding of modern-day schooling and heavy curriculum demands.
Of course, this is a bold statement to make, and with that, you will always have modern-day educationists, theorists and so-called experts who will argue the opposite, but as they say, it is fairly evident that our childhood and early education is of massive importance. How and what we eventually learn is fundamentally essential to how we develop as humans in later life.
I have many fond memories of learning all about rivers, learning about the changing seasons and the many (now rare) opportunities to go outside and look at my local surroundings, the trees, flowers, weather and the immediate landscape and have the time to examine different kinds of flora and fauna. This gave us chance to sketch what you see right in front of you and the opportunity to talk and discuss what was in our curious minds with like-minded others. We had the chance to go on an exciting outdoor residential visit to not only to learn about yourself but also the group you are with or the world around us.
In pursuit of raising awareness and helping to tip the trends, this particular blog post continues to focus on the outdoors and its harmonious crossover with education. Therefore, in this post, I intend to highlight further the benefits of Outdoor Learning and how a shared vision and overall approach to utilising the outdoors can indeed bear fruits in the daily practice of our education system and whole school curriculum.
As a result, I hope to draw upon the many benefits and help balance the argument that students who don’t always have the opportunity to learn from the outdoors may be missing out on opportunities to excel both academically and socially.
What are the benefits of Outdoor Learning?
Academics continue to say that outdoor learning is beneficial to all students due to the fact it consistently makes them healthier and happier individuals. Outdoor Education also supports a child's development and it has an overall positive effect on their school performance.
I feel as a teacher and one that is currently teaching from day to day a huge emphasis still focuses too much on results and results that are only really gathered through classroom-based activities.
I argue the point, do these only benefit the few and does it hamper the rest?
From my own experiences, I would have to say it does. Within my education, the teacher who stepped up and added a bit of personality and did something slightly different, always provided it met the suitable keys to learning, interested and inspired many of my peers and me.
With that said and to highlight (what I feel are) the key benefits, I will hopefully elaborate and expand a little further:
Pupils who have the opportunity to embrace the outdoors and gain experiences from a positive outdoor learning environment tend to be more attentive, focused and possess a greater understanding of the information that is shared during a lesson.
A consistent approach and regular exposure to the natural environment helps to decrease levels of stress and the overall feeling of anxiety. It helps to clear the mind and systematically elevates the mood helping to regulate our emotions and how we begin to seek and develop a positive well-balanced lifestyle.
Now the tablet, smart TV and computers have begun to have far too much influence in the everyday lives of youngsters. So much so, children often have far too much exposure to digital screens, both inside and outside of school. Unfortunately, this misuse can only begin to lean towards adverse effects with a growing result in “nature deficit disorder.” In turn, this unbalanced usage might end up leading to longer periods of stagnation, growing levels of obesity and possible psychological and academic issues.
In response to the above point, Outdoor learning allows students to simplify their overall approach and begin to put their focus back into nature.
Outdoor environments are central natural features and naturally draw and inspire children into being more physically active.
Having more significant exposure to bright sunlight found in nature is also healthy for vision. Bright sunlight (Vitamin D) is necessary for the eyes to develop correctly, lowering the risk of the onset of eye problems. It also has significant benefits for our skin and overall health and well-being.
In an outdoor setting, children are challenged by their surroundings and more motivated to work together in groups. This will have a positive effect on the opportunities to help improve their social interaction and develop skills the necessary skills to enhance this further.
Children can use the outdoors as a means of learning to effectively manage conflicts, increase levels of communication, and establish new ways of cooperating with their peers more effectively.
Outdoor learning is a valuable learning tool in education, and it provides children with wonderful hands-on experiences in a natural setting. I happy to argue that most children learn better by using their senses and outdoor environments provide the perfect place to do this.
Practitioners also have the opportunity to present learning in a completely different way. It provides opportunities for learning to be viewed differently. Instead of displaying various types of plants or wildlife on a computer or TV screen, children can have the ‘first hand’ experience and be able to see, smell, hear and touch a wide variety of species in their natural form. At a previous school, I worked with the children and began to develop and start a garden, which allowed all participants the unique opportunity to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, which were then put into the school kitchen or sold at a mini market garden. These are purposeful and unique opportunities for providing hands-on experiences that enable participants with the chance to cultivate a love of nature and get them interested in the world outside their window.
Sustainability is something we all hear a lot about, but I argue how many of us actually follow the principles of becoming more sustainable. To me, it appears something we all nod our heads at but do little or nothing about. Opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle become prevalent through outdoor learning and the chance to make a significant difference can be quite considerable. In practical terms, water conservation is important and pretty simple to do through collecting and reusing rainwater. Conserving our waste and reusing it for composting is again essential and wonderfully useful. Besides and a contentious issue is a plastic. Plastic can be reused to produce some fantastic child led artwork and can also be reused on any outdoor learning site, for collecting water, as part of a weather survey.
There are many considerations to be made and many arguments to be batted back and forth. Considering all these benefits and also barriers, I feel strongly about the use of outdoor learning and how it can be used within our school setting.
I feel it is something all schools and experts within it should try to incorporate and consider. Of course, these principles are driven by an overall vision and enthusiasm. I have been an educator for nearly 20 years, and in that time I have seen many fads come and go mainly due to the fact that the experts impose them with little conscious or opinion — only a chance to keep up with the Joneses or please the current political stance.
Going back to basics is an option, and with a strong vision and a significant purpose, the overall results both inside of the classroom can be fruitful. If you’d like to see more outdoor learning opportunities for your children, consider speaking to the school leaders about incorporating nature into the more extensive school curriculum, or perhaps even talk with other parents of school-aged children about the benefits of outdoor learning and discuss ways to implement outdoor education in your broader community.
Thank you for reading and acknowledging the few points raised. As I always say, I don’t have all the answers, but I do have opinion, thoughts and dreams. If you would like to find out more, collaborate or even utilise my skill set, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I would love to reach out and get in touch.
Buy my Book
For what seems like an age I have been developing my thoughts and stories and building upon my experiences in the hope of presenting them in my first book.
This book is now available, and it focuses on many of the beautiful experiences you can enjoy and learn from while outside in the Great Outdoors.
As a result, I have developed a practical guide that will come in useful for any outdoor practitioner or teacher, wishing to immerse themselves further and utilise the outdoors as a practical learning tool.
Thank you for your support!