Please enjoy this guest blog by Alex Cordier who resides in New Zealand! Alex wanted to share her perspective on the benefits of learning in the great outdoors.
The benefits of outdoor activities for learning are invaluable. Through outdoor education programs like Forest School, children learn useful life skills that simply can’t be learned inside of a classroom. Outdoor learning ultimately aims to teach youth to have a deeper understanding of the environment and enhance their personal and social development.
Children today are growing up in a world that is increasingly dependent on technology. With so many options available, whether it be social media, online gaming, or TV streaming services, it can be very easy to become glued to digital screens instead of engaging with the people around you. I am guilty of this myself and see it all the time in people of all ages. At any family event or public space, I often see young children playing on their tablets and iPhones instead of playing with each other. As our world becomes more and more digital, it is even more essential to teach children the importance of real life interaction and environmental awareness. Outdoor education programs motivate children to put their focus back on their natural surroundings and take a much-needed break from their digital screens. It can be very healthy and refreshing for children to take an extended break from digital devices.
Many schools these days are incorporating technology more often into their curriculums. But Forest School and other outdoor learning programs teach children skills that can’t be learned via the computer and shows them that you don’t need technology to have fun and learn new things. For instance, one of the best life skills you can learn through outdoor education is teamwork. Outdoor play naturally motivates children to work together in groups. By encouraging the students to work in groups to solve problems on adventurous expeditions, contribute their ideas, and resolve conflicts together, it teaches them all about cooperation and communication, which are useful skills in the real world. This is no doubt one of the greatest benefits of outdoor activities for learning.
First Grade Outdoor Education. Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks, Flickr
Not only does outdoor learning teach valuable teamwork skills, but it also helps to enhance connections, develop social skills, and build great friendships. During my time in school, I was lucky enough to participate in a week long outdoor education program with the rest of my peers. Through sharing tents and doing rotating group activities every day, I formed many new friendships that I probably never would have made inside a classroom.
It’s important for children to maintain a positive attitude towards learning. One of the biggest benefits of learning outside the classroom is that it helps to build positive memories and feelings around education. When you’re doing practical activities that are fun and enjoyable, it doesn’t necessarily feel like learning. For instance, my most positive memories of school are those days that consisted outside of the classroom. Whether it was a short field trip to the forest or a week-long camping trip doing various organized activities, I always had the most fun learning outdoors. The lessons I learned on these trips were always the most memorable and impactful. That’s why I believe that the importance of outdoor education in schools should not be downplayed. For children stuck inside a classroom, things can get tiresome and uninspired quite quickly, so more schools should be encouraged to make outdoor learning a regular part of the curriculum if they have the means to do so. The opportunity to experience outdoor learning could definitely help renew enthusiasm and excitement for kids today.
At the end of day, it’s important to remember that kids are still kids, and they will need a balance of time between formal learning and play. Apart from outdoor education, it is beneficial for children to be exposed to ‘old-school’ toys and outdoor games such as building blocks, trampolines, jump ropes, slides and swings as these can also help in a child’s development.
Alex Cordier is a freelance writer residing in Auckland, New Zealand, who enjoys writing about children, fitness and the outdoors.