This is the first part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education.
With classrooms being ‘classes in rooms’, it can often mean that a young person spends the majority of their day surrounded by four walls, desks, chairs and screens. Time outside of this may be sport, music, dance, drama but apart from sport the rest are indoors, and even sport can be indoors (albeit active). What a young person loses is the time to be outdoors – to smell, to walk, to play, to touch, to climb, to stumble, to jump, to swing, to fall over and get up. In other words, to soak up being outdoors and just ‘being’ in the space and time of the outdoors.
So what are the benefits of outdoor education?
1. Better grades
This is probably the number one sticking point for parents is that their child is spending less time learning and they are just ‘on camp’. Fortunately, the science shows that outdoor education in fact improves a students grades. Research from Dennis Eaton the author of Cognitive and Effective Learning in Outdoor Education finds that the cognitive abilities of students develop better outside the classroom rather than in. In fact, the science suggests that students who are regularly involved in outdoor education have marked improvements in the basic skills of reading, writing and math.
2. Increased motivation
After spending time outdoors, science has shown that students’ motivation levels carry over into indoor learning. Being in the outdoors is a powerful as it tugs at a young persons senses. They can focus on detail and describe something far better when outdoors than indoors. However, this also carries over into the classroom after time spent on an outdoor education program.
The physical change of pace and place that happens when outdoors is motivating in itself. Everyone needs variety.
3. Better health and fitness
I’m not talking about health and fitness in the realms of becoming fit young people. I’m talking about the fact that students are up and about. Moving around, walking, exploring – participating in what was traditionally the normal 50 years ago. With this comes a factor in the reduction of childhood obesity. As Author Richard Louv states “the harmful effects on kids of too much indoor overstimulation, including attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression and obesity. As young people spend less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically and by allowing them to stay indoors denies them the fundamental part of being a young person.
4. Less stress
The brain produces something called ‘the happy hormone’ also known as serotonin. There are a number of ways of releasing serotonin such as listening to music, receiving praise and hearing the sounds of nature. Being outdoors, triggers the serotonin to be stimulated and up their happy hormone.
5. How can you care about something if you don’t understand it?
Imagine that a mining company wants to dig out your land for coal or a hydro electricity company wants to dam up the local valley to produce power. If you’ve had a connection with these places, you’ll want to protect them. That’s why you see protesters at rally’s. They have a connection with what’s going on, value it and want to protect it. Knowledge is power, so understanding what will happen by educating yourself means you’re more likely to have compassion for what’s going on.
It helps to develop a relationship with the environment. By experiencing the great outdoors, students will learn to respect, appreciate, and enjoy what nature has to offer us. It helps them to see themselves in a global context, developing an awareness of the importance of sustainability of the world’s natural resources.
Our relationship with the environment is a key issue facing tomorrow’s citizens.
Active learning and adventure outdoors introduces young people to the environment in a way which develops understanding appreciation, awe, wonder and respect. It fosters sensitivity to the environment, helps young people to see themselves in a global context and helps to develop citizens with an awareness of the need for sustainable use of the world’s natural resources.
Read Part 2 and Part 3 by clicking on the links 7 days after this post.
Now it’s your chance. What benefits have you seen from outdoor education? Leave a comment below.