“Don’t just tell children about the world – show them”
Outdoor Classroom Day is a biannual celebration and movement to inspire adults, teachers and children that learning outdoors is incredibly important. In recent times, outdoor education has become more important than ever. This is because as a society, we have reduced access to nature especially in urban environments. There has also been a trend of children spending less time outdoors due to a variety of reasons, including safety, crime and traffic. A report by National Recreation and Park Association1 found that the current generation of children spend less time outdoors than any other generation in history. They found that children spend between only 4 to 7 minutes in unstructured outdoor play per day while on average they spend 7.5 hours in front of electronic media. These findings demonstrate that we need to celebrate outdoor education and improve access so all children can be involved.
The theme of this year’s Outdoor Classroom Day is ‘Love the Outdoors’ and the previous celebrations have engaged 9.5 million children globally and almost 2 million children in the UK and Ireland.
“There is no wifi in the forest, but you will find a better connection”
Why is it important to learn outdoors?
Most people would assume that learning outdoors would be a beneficial experience for children but what does the research say? Studies dating back to the 1980s has consistently shown that people who have higher exposure to nature have lower levels of stress, better mental health as well as physical health2. Outdoor learning allows children to explore the world around them, understand and respect nature as well as allows them to develop their problem-solving skills and creativity – with a wide range of opportunities to explore their imagination. Recent research even suggests that children who play outside more also have a more effective immune response3. Further to this, it has been shown that children who are happier and healthier also perform better at school. Despite being in urban London, there is evidence to show that the benefits of nature access are not limited to the countryside and is sustained in urban green environments4. This is really important, especially in modern times.
“When we deny children play, we are denying them the right to understand the world”
Considering outdoor learning has been proved to be so beneficial – why isn’t it more widespread? What does the future look like?
Unfortunately, there are a variety of reasons why outdoor learning has yet to take centre stage. It’s believed that with outdoor learning there are lots of associated costs including new clothing, new teaching equipment and training. Further to this, a report found that teachers struggled to use outdoor learning activities as it was potentially difficult to measure and assess how successful the learning outcomes were5. Despite this, research found that 97% of teachers believe that outdoor play is critical for children to reach their full potential (6). As attitudes are changing and more opportunities are becoming available, there will be a positive shift. Celebrations such as Outdoor Classroom Day remind and highlight to people how important outdoor learning is for children.
“Nature is one of our greatest teachers”
Want to read more about what was discussed in this blog or take part in celebrating Outdoor Classroom Day? Follow the links below!
1) National Recreation and Parks Association. Children in Nature. Available: https://www.nrpa.org/uploadedFiles/nrpa.org/Advocacy/Children-in-Nature…. Last accessed 29th October 2020.
2) Kelsey, T. (2018). Why increasing young people’s access to nature makes electoral sense. Available: https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2018/01/29/increasing-young-peoples-access-to-nature/. Last accessed 29th October 2020.
3) Carrington, D. (2020). Greener play areas boost children’s immune systems, research finds. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/14/greener-play-areas-boost-childrens-immune-systems-research-finds. Last accessed 29th October 2020.
4) White, M.P., Alcock, I., Wheeler, B.W. and Depledge, M.H., 2013. Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data. Psychological Science, 24(6), pp.920-928.
5) Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. (2019). Outdoor learning has huge benefits for children and teachers — so why isn’t it used in more schools?. Available: https://www.lotc.org.uk/outdoor-learning-has-huge-benefits-for-children…. Last accessed 29th October 2020.