The WWF sponsored a green schools series in the Guardian Newspaper Online. Written by Matthew Jenkin this lovely article outlines how “Getting outdoors can pay dividends in academic performance – but it also improves pupils’ concentration and confidence.”
An Excerpt of the article is posted below….
Three years ago teacher Simon Poote spotted a disused strip of land on the grounds of Long Crendon school in Aylesbury. Instead of giving over the 15-metre square lawn to recreational use, or simply ignoring it, Poote saw potential for creating an outdoor learning space for the primary’s year 1 to 6 students. The only snag was how to pay for the plot’s transformation.
“We have lots of space but not much money,” says headteacher Sue Stamp. The school therefore appealed to parents, local businesses and the community to donate everything from landfill material to create small hills, to unwanted play equipment to build a trim trail and tunnels for the children to explore. Help came thick and fast, and the area now boasts a fully equipped thatched mud kitchen and a system of pipes and pulleys to transport water around the site.
Stamp insists outdoor learning has become more than just a project for the school, “it’s a way of life” she explains. The whole ethos of the school is to be outdoors as much as possible, rain or shine, so that students of all ages also take part in forest school activities in a wooded area alongside the playing field two days a week, learning skills such as fire lighting and making charcoal, as well as being allowed to climb trees, all under supervision.
“We have seen an amazing difference in some children,” she says. “Children who just didn’t engage in the classroom suddenly come into their own when they get outside.” Students who are less academically inclined gain in confidence and Stamp claims she has seen them step up as leaders in practical group activities for the first time.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 90-minute walk through a natural environment has a remarkably positive impact on people. In a survey taken afterwards, those who took the natural walk showed far lower levels of anxiety or obsessive worry. The control group who spent 90 minutes walking through a city did not share the nature groups up-beat mood.
Young children are increasingly engaged in structured activities such as dance, music, soccer and while these are good they are losing the opportunity for unstructured play and it’s hurting their development.
Playing in a playground where every tree is carefully planted has a different quality than play that takes place in a natural environment. Think back to a camping trip where your children played for hours barely supervised and imagine spending even an hour at the park that way.
Children’s emotional and affective values of nature develop earlier than their abstract, logical and rational perspectives
The natural world offers sensory stimulation and physical diversity which is critical for childhood experiences; it impacts their morals, values and actions. Children who live and play in close relationship to nature form a bond that lasts a lifetime.
Research shows that kids who are involved in nature have increased academic performance, attention spans, language and social skills. Nature also gives kids the opportunity to be more creative, imaginative, to problem-solve, and to self-regulate, which increases self-confidence and reduces stress.
Children need unstructured play time in order to learn about themselves and the world. Playing in a natural environment allows children to take risks, discover limitations and make judgements to a greater degree than playing in a soccer field. A child who has roamed the hills of their community is more likely to care about what goes on in that community.
From the shores of the Thompson River to the hills of Kenna Cartwright and Peterson Creek Kamloops is full of natural exploration opportunities. Best of all none of it will cost you a dime.
This article was published in the Natural Nurturing Guide in Spring 2014