This summer I visited The Greentree Foundation. Located in Manhasset, Greentree’s 400 acres of mature woodlands, native grasses, and glacial topography offer a remarkable natural classroom from which to study the biology, ecology, and geology of Long Island. I saw a hawk and watched a salamander slither under a rock. One of the organization’s notable goals is to school teachers in how to create outdoor learning opportunities.
Most students today don’t have the same opportunities as their parents did to play outside. The world is less safe and the draw of technology is a considerable magnet to pull our children indoors. A great deal of research has been done , though, on the enormous positive effects of learning outdoors. Here’s what educators have learned:
- Natural environments, such as parks, foster recovery from mental fatigue, stress, and anxiety and are found to be restorative.
- People have a more positive outlook on life and higher satisfaction when in proximity to nature.
- Observing nature can restore concentration and improve productivity.
- Natural play settings have been found to reduce the severity of symptoms of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and improve concentration.
- Exposure to natural environments enhances the ability to recover from illness and injury.
- A direct experience with nature can provide greater interest in topics introduced indoors triggered by experience that was relevant, real-world, and tangible.9
- Play with natural elements (e.g., sticks, leaves, stones, sand, mud, etc.) was found to engage children longer than traditional play materials, supporting greater cooperation and pro-social behaviors.
- Garden-based learning programs have resulted in increased nutrition and environmental awareness, higher learning achievements, and increased life skills for students.
- Participation in outdoor school has been linked with higher ratings of conflict resolution skills, improved self-esteem, problem solving skills, and environmental behaviors.
The research is overwhelming in terms of the benefits of being outside. This fall, while the weather is warm, why not take your class outside? Students can read, write, and explore while feeling a breeze on their cheeks and listen to the chatter of blue jays. The first days of back to school routines can be stressful. What a great way to create a special atmosphere for your new students.
Much of the material in this post came from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-benefits-of-outdoor-education-michael-becker
Some of the outdoor education research:
Charles, C. (2010). Children’s contact with the outdoors and nature: A focus on educators and educational settings. Children & Nature Network. This extensive report summarizes outdoor education and nature experience research related to schools and educational settings. It’s available at: http://www.childrenandnature.org/downloads/Educationsynthesis.pdf
Coyle, K.J. (2010). Back to school: Back outside! National Wildlife Federation. This report summarizes the benefits of outdoor education and provides action ideas, policy recommendations, and additional resources. It’s available at: http://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Be%20Out%20There/Back%20to%20School%20f ull%20report.ashx 1School performance research
American Institutes for Research. (2005). Effects of outdoor education programs for children in California. Palo Alto, CA. Available on the Sierra Club web site. http://www.sierraclub.org/youth/california/outdoorschool_finalreport.pdf
Blair, D. (2009). The child in the garden: an evaluative review of the benefits of school gardening. Journal of Environmental Education, 40(2), 15-38. This study may be available in a library near you or can be purchased online through the publisher at: http://www.heldref.org/pubs/jee/about.html
Dyment, J. (2005). Gaining ground: The power and potential of school ground greening in the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting.