How outdoor learning helps students and teachers



Even just one hour per week of outdoor learning can have a huge impact on children’s learning outcomes while increasing teacher job satisfaction, research shows.

Credit: MaxPixel.

It is now an established fact that most people benefit from participating in activities in natural outdoor environments. Being exposed to trees, wildlife, and parks can reduce stress, rejuvenate attention, increase motivation, and improve physical and mental health by promoting exercise. The more time you spend outdoors, the better. For example, a 2014 study found that a week of camping outdoors can reset your body clock and restore your natural sleep patterns. Even a single weekend can do the trick, according to another study, so better pack that tent and camping chairs.

The psychological benefits of spending time outdoors, such as improved attention spans and mental revitalization, are particularly appealing to education – and we don’t have to move schools to the woods to reap these benefits. advantages.

Researchers at Swansea University analyzed learning outcomes from three primary schools in South Wales, where lessons were held in a natural environment for at least an hour a week.

“We found that the students felt a sense of freedom when they came out of the tight walls of the classroom. They felt more able to express themselves and also appreciated being able to move around more. They also said they felt more engaged and were more positive about the learning experience. We also heard a lot of people say that their well-being and memory are better, and the teachers told us how this helps to involve all types of learners, ”said Emily Marchant, PhD student. Swansea University medical studies researcher and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Although initially skeptical of this pilot program, teachers found that outdoor learning improved their job satisfaction and personal well-being. This is quite important since too often educational research focuses on the student, with teachers and educators receiving little attention.

“This is a very important finding given current concerns about teacher retention rates. Overall, our results underscore the potential of outdoor learning as an educational tool to improve school engagement and outcomes in children’s health, well-being and education, ”a added Marchant.

Another study, published in 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, came to similar conclusions, finding that the “nature effect” of outdoor learning made 9-10 year olds more attentive and engaged in their schoolwork. According to the study, teachers were able to teach continuously for almost twice as long as in a subsequent classroom lesson.

“We wanted to see if we could use the nature effect in a school setting,” says Kuo. “If you took a bunch of third graders outside for class, would they show any benefit in having a lesson in nature, or would they just be bouncing off the walls afterward?” Said Ming Kuo, a scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Some teachers may be reluctant to hold classes outdoors, at least every now and then, as they might think the environment would over-excite children and reduce their concentration. But the scientific literature actually shows the opposite.

“We’re excited to find a way to teach students and refresh their minds for the next lesson at the same time,” says Kuo. “Teachers can have their cake and eat it too. “



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