Our learning programs for early years students this year have included Bush Learning at the Scotch Oakburn Park Wetlands, Bush Learning at the Cataract Gorge, regular experiences in Claremont Park and Claremont Garden and Education Outdoors days at the Valley Campus for Prep and Year 1 students. The academic and personal benefits to students of learning in and through natural environments are significant.
Over the past decade, there have been a number of major reviews conducted around this. These reviews have consistently demonstrated evidence that outdoor learning makes a significant impact on improving children’s quality of life. A joint research study between Australian and UK Universities, ‘Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling: Pathways from Evidence to Impact Report 2016’ detailed the findings from a number of reviews and highlighted some of these benefits.
Students who spend significant time learning in natural environments, compared to learning indoors or in constructed, unnatural environments have better outcomes with respect to their health and wellbeing, academic learning, social and emotional skills and environmental awareness. In summary, some of these improved outcomes are:
- Enhanced peace, self-control and self-discipline
- Enhanced personal confidence and connectedness
- Higher levels of knowledge and awareness about nutrition and eating choices
- Reduced risk of the effects of contemporary sedentary lifestyle issues such as obesity and myopia
- Reduced anxiety levels
- Improved focus and engagement in learning experiences and activities generally
- Improved test scores across the curriculum, especially in science
- Engagement in more creative forms of play and cooperative activities
- Better developed capacities for creativity, problem-solving and intellectual growth
Social and Emotional Skills
- More adaptable, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier
- Better developed non-cognitive skills that underpin successful team working, perseverance and management of stress. These include interpersonal behaviours, self-perception, resilience, creativity and metacognition
- More openness to new experiences, enhanced conscientiousness, more emotional stability
- More likely to be aware of their place in the ecology of the world
- Able to appreciate how they play an important part in acknowledging and valuing the environment
- More likely to be active citizens and environmental stewards in their current and future lives
- Improved ecological literacy and sustainability learning
This link is a good starting point for readers wishing to read more in this area. The study also includes a range of other references.
Head of Junior School