Did you ever look longingly out of the window in class during a boring lesson? Wishing that you were outside, feeling the fresh air and sun on your face? The need to be outside can get quite strong for some after a few hours of sitting behind a desk in a classroom.
Some teachers may fear that outdoor learning will result in over-excited children and the inability to control the class or contain the children so that they will actually participate in the lesson. Whilst this can be true for some children that may get distracted from being outdoors, on the most part, outdoor learning is actually more engaging.
Apart from this, studies have shown that students are more engaged in their learning following some time spent outdoors. Students are more attentive and focused during a lesson when they would have just enjoyed being in nature.
Why is outdoor learning so engaging?
Most students are much more motivated to learn when they are in an outdoor setting than if they were in a classroom. It has been known for a long time that spending time in nature is beneficial to our brains. Being outdoors is a great way of reducing stress levels, which will then allow for students to be in a better and more clear state of mind to be able to learn new concepts and skills. Being in nature has also been found to decrease feelings of anger, anxiety, and fear – which will also allow for the student to be able to learn in a more effective manner. With all of these negative and distracting emotions being decreased, outdoor learning will be more engaging, positive, and fun for the students.
Engage with the Senses
Outdoor learning also makes more use of our senses – the smells, the sounds, the sights – and this allows the children to be more present and grounded in the moment. This means that they can absorb more of the information that is being taught to them. It also allows the children to get messy and find different ways to fulfil their sensory needs, which could otherwise distract them in the classroom. Being outdoors allows students to feel freer and encourages students to express themselves more openly.
Classroom for Life Skills
Additionally, the natural world can be an extremely effective tool to teach life-skills to children. Learning about the plants and trees around us, how to take care of them, and what benefits they give us, can help students learn how to take care of themselves and the environment around them. This can increase the confidence that they have in themselves to navigate the ‘real’ world, outside the classroom.
Having a positive learning experience in nature will have the student’s looking forward to their next lesson. This increased motivation and eagerness results in an overall better educational experience and will encourage students to continue expanding their knowledge and skill sets.
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Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.
Kuo, M., Browning, M. H. E. M., & Penner, M. L. (1AD, January 1). Do lessons in nature boost subsequent classroom engagement? refueling students in flight. Frontiers. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02253/full