The Outdoor Classroom
Four walls, one teacher, 20+ students, a blackboard, a handful of laptops and desks with chairs tucked neatly in place; an environment surely conducive to academic learning. But could we do better?
While that particular question is one best left to policy-makers, educators are taking things into their own hands and encouraging kids to get outside. Whether huddled under the branches of leafy trees or strolling through nature gardens set-up for inquiry and exploration, teachers are finding creative ways to give your learners the opportunity to discover the hidden benefits of an outdoor education.
Experiential learning in action
The idea of taking school beyond the classroom is at the root of experiential education, an approach promoting students’ direct experience with their learning environment and curriculum. As teachers work with students to bridge the gap between theory and practice, concepts become easier to grasp and thus a more meaningful part of the learning experience.
For example, imagine teaching a classroom of preschoolers about pollution. Now imagine how much clearer that concept becomes if students go for a walk around the block, pointing out and picking up pieces of garbage that can be found on the street, sidewalk or playground. Learning about pollution is one thing but seeing the effects of pollution and becoming part of the solution drives home the importance of acting responsibility for the sake of the planet.
An opportunity for alternative learning
In addition to providing students with a more hands-on approach to education, teaching outside actually gives a number of students the chance to step-up and perform far better than they might in a traditional school environment.
Many students who struggle to focus in the traditional classroom may flourish in the outdoor classroom. This is because outdoor classes are typically less structured and more creative, stimulating the senses and creating the perfect environment for kinesthetic learners – those who benefit more from physical activity and experience.
A breath of fresh air
Of course, not all outdoor education is experiential. A change of scenery is as refreshing for children as adults. Reviewing multiplication facts on the school steps or listening to a story while sitting in a shady corner of the playground can turn the usual into a memorable learning experience. As an adult, if you have an office job, you know the benefit of taking a long walk outside during your lunch break. How much more beneficial would it be if you could actually take your work with you?
Moreover, fresh air is scientifically proven to improve physical health, lessen stress and strengthen the immune system. After all, with all the germs floating around a kindergarten classroom, we could all use an extra boost to get us through the school year.