UKEdMag: The Outdoor Classroom – Let’s get Growing Schools by @ntrlconnections

Extract from UKEdMag, March 2014 Issue – Article by Beth Summers.

Swap a whiteboard with a clipboard, indoor for outdoor shoes and a text book with the real thing.

Today there is a growing concern that young people are beginning to lose their connection with the natural environment. The time children spend playing outside during the week has almost halved in a generation. With 21st century technology advancements, there is a belief that children’s time is being dominated by iPads, computers and television, resulting in less time being spent in the outdoors.

[pullquote]An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature…has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself[/pullquote]Richard Louv described the disconnection between children and nature as the ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, in which he raised concern that this would become an even bigger problem in the future if things did not change. He said, “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature…has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself”.

Outdoor learning

This widespread concern has sparked a positive energy around improving the connections between children and the living environment. This is especially so in schools with an increase in outdoor learning activities. Learning outside the classroom in the natural environment is hands on, stimulating, fun and educational. It provides fresh settings and new depths to students’ education. Using the outdoors allows the opportunity for pupils to engage with the living environment in their everyday school life, and has been proven to have significant benefits including better education attainment, improved health benefits as well as developing social and life skills. Surrounded by nature, pupils develop an appreciation for the environment, in which they learn to protect, conserve and care for it.

Growing Schools

Growing Schools’ goal is to put outdoor learning at the heart of the curriculum so that going outdoors in not an added on extra, but an everyday part of school-life. This can be through an inner city window box full of herbs, planting trees in acres of woodland, a school allotment vegetable plot or a local park. These activities are not necessarily time consuming, nor do they add to workload; in fact, they may ease pressures by increasing pupil engagement. The Growing Schools website is bursting with outdoor learning resources, case studies and learning experiences, and provides easy access to advice, support and expert knowledge that teachers and practitioners need in taking their class outside. The website also provides a fantastic bank of expert local organisations from beach and forest schools, storytellers to consultants that will help schools take the curriculum outdoors. Or if you are looking for a local place to visit, take a look at the interactive places to visit maps.

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