If you are reading this article, it is highly likely that you have sat in a row of desks and have been taught. This is how learning typically happens in a school classroom. It makes sense that if we want all kids to be filled with information and to then repeat that information, it should be as organized as possible if near rows all face forward. It may be efficient for teachers to manage students in this manner, but the reality of whole-child education shows that a different environment, at times, is beneficial for students.
Learning while in nature can be a powerful pedagogical tool to support child development, increase civic engagement and sense of duty, and keep students healthy. While being forced to learn inside for 8 hours a day, students have shown a tendency to lose motivation, increase negative behavior, and disconnect from the learning objectives. If we are able to empower teachers to utilize the outdoors to teach then students will benefit. Naturally, there is more planning required and expectations set, but there are many examples both worldwide and nationally that have managed to implant outdoor learning effectively.
The Pacific Northwest is home to beautiful mountains, plentiful rivers and lakes, and 4 seasons of weather. Educators should be allowed to use transportation, design activities, and assess students while learning outside the classroom. In order for this to be more of a priority for schools, they will need to change the metrics on which we judge success. Currently, schools are assessed according to standardized test scores. What if we measured success on overall child development, health and wellness, and intentional engagement in the community? This would then allow teachers to be more creative than paper and pencil assessments, where students would be required to demonstrate learning outside the classroom.
Learning outside is good for the brain. In fact, a series of studies by the Children and Nature Network (C&NN) have shown that daily exposure to natural settings increases children’s ability to focus, enhancing cognitive skills. An additional study from the University of Illinois’ Landscape and Human Health Lab found that access to nature decreases the symptoms of ADHD in children. The ability to learn outdoors has also been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep, according to research from the National Wildlife Federation.
Many outside learning activities can be possible that teach math, collaboration, sustainability, engineering, and more. If the benefits of learning outside can simultaneously increase students’ overall health and allow for academic progress to happen, then it is a win-win for all stakeholders. At Liberty Launch Academy we design a curriculum that includes learning outside the classroom. We expect all students to be aware of their surroundings, improve the community, and increase their health.