Outdoor learning is a tool which educators can use to engage student learning and promote whole child development.
When we imagine environments conducive to learning, most of us see the traditional classroom as the place where pupils can achieve their best.
But what about your nearest park or local woodlands?
Outdoor learning is organised learning through nature, whether that means a residential trip, complete with kayaking and nature hikes, or simply searching for insects in the school garden.
We will explore how giving your children access to education outside the classroom can mean not only greater creativity and critical problem-solving skills, but also higher test scores.
Why is environmental learning important?
Often neglected in favour of other parts of the curriculum, outdoor education actively contributes to student learning. In one research study, students from schools which taught an environmentally focused curriculum scored higher in 72% of academic assessments (including reading, science, maths, and more).
A similar study found that outdoor learning offers students opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday learning experiences.
After all, studying plants and living things in Year 3 would not be meaningful to learners if they were not given the opportunity to grow their own plants or make their own observations about plants in their natural environs.
Why should parents consider nature learning?
When students learn in nature, they benefit from improved classroom engagement and decreased levels of hyperactivity and inattention.
If your child finds it difficult to focus in a traditional setting, consider taking your learning outdoors where children can feel more excited and emotionally engaged in their learning, which promotes a deeper and more effective understanding.
Outdoor learning activities you can teach
Not as simple as just frolicking in a field looking for wildlife, outdoor education must be carefully planned, thoughtfully implemented, and followed up to be truly effective.
Student or teacher-led field observations cater to a variety of subjects. Here, we’ve listed a few ideas to inspire your next outdoor adventure:
Conduct an invertebrate or plant investigation, with emphasis on their life cycle or physical properties
Observe and classify objects based on their properties (Rocks: Year 3, Inheritance: Year 6)
Go on a pattern and angle hunt
Measure temperature and microclimates
Create nature art inspired by Andy Goldsworthy using natural materials around you
Explore pigments released by different plants and seeds
Environmental education in a tutoring context
Incorporating outdoor activities in lessons might seem difficult, but it is not wholly unachievable.
Creativity is key.
For instance, if you are tutoring a Science topic such as Light, consider an experiment conducted in the outdoors to do with the length of shadows or even angles of reflection.
In one study, results indicated that the students enjoyed learning environmental science concepts in a hands-on, active, and experiential way and that the outdoor component added depth and meaning to their regular indoor learning activities.
In our current learning environment of high-stakes tests and exams, perhaps it’s time to smell the roses and consider deeper alternatives to traditional teaching.
Blog Post Crafted by Cheryl
Cheryl works on our Admin Team, and is a qualified teacher with 5 years' experience in schools across England and Canada.
Cheryl graduated from McMaster University with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce and a Minor in English, and from University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Education, with a specialisation in Aboriginal Studies. She tutored secondary school students in English for over nine years in Canada.
Cheryl speaks Cantonese, English and French, and in her spare time, she can be found illustrating and reading children’s books for inspiration.