by Elouise Fillingham, Head of Pre Prep Department
During my teaching career it has become increasingly evident how we are becoming more disconnected from nature. Sadly some of us are gradually losing our innate connection and love for the outdoor environment and all the opportunities it provides, the visual delights, the tantalizing adventures, the physical challenge and fun that it can hold.
Appreciation of the woodlands, their priceless job, their role, their purpose, their magnitude of importance, comes only with a deeply ingrained relationship with that environment. It is essential and necessary for those of us that live in the industrialised, sanitised world of bricks and mortar to stir the inner connection that over generations has been hidden in the cells of memory, the fabric of our being. In losing this relationship, there are signs that we are becoming individually sick, socially dislocated and globally destroyed. Archimedes Forest Schools Education
Compared to 50 years ago, children are spending less and less time outdoors, even more so after the events of the past six months and the developments in technology over the years. In fact, by the time a child reaches the age of 7, many will have spent the equivalent of 456 days looking at a screen. This is an average of four hours a day. Compared to this only 182 days will have been spent in the outdoors, which equates to around an hour and half a day. I myself have witnessed in other settings children engaged in running and play stopping dead at the edge of the tarmac area where the playground merged onto grass, all unsure if they could cross this boundary form the flat and sanitised environment to the wild and natural.
It is therefore increasingly important as educators that we provide children with the opportunities to learn outside the classroom. Providing a mixture of curriculum based learning opportunities but also giving children the time and space to explore and take risks both physically but also with their thinking. My experience of outdoor learning as a teacher has only reinforced my understanding of the transformational aspect of this form of education.
The outdoors can provide a wealth of natural resources and if well prepared for, planned and safely managed, outdoor lessons can be a rewarding learning experiences for children, who don’t always realise they are learning when outside. Through careful observation and questioning of children after outdoor learning sessions it is clear that pupils feel a sense of freedom when outside the restricting walls of the classroom. They feel more able to express themselves, and enjoy being able to move about more freely. Many say they feel more engaged and felt more positive about the learning experience. Importantly outdoor learning provides children with hands-on experiences. Most children learn better by using their senses. Outdoor environments provide the perfect place to do this. For example instead of viewing different types of plants or wildlife on a computer or TV screen, they can see, smell, hear, and touch them in nature. These hands-on experiences cultivate a love of nature and get them interested in their world and its natural resources.
Children are often more motivated to work together in groups, which can improve their social skills. They learn to manage conflicts, communicate, and cooperate with their peers in a more effective manner. They express their ideas and have the freedom to explore them fully. Learning through trial and error and developing concepts. Children can share their skills and discover new ones, appreciating each other’s input and everyone’s individual skills which often come together to solve a practical problem or challenge.
The cognitive, physical and wellbeing benefits for our children learning outside have never been more important.