Take the Classroom Outdoors!Finding Value in Outdoor Play
This Thursday September 7th is being promoted internationally as ‘Outdoor Classroom Day’, with schools all over the world signing up to get involved in getting students outdoors to promote ‘active learning’. The Outdoor Classroom Day website, itself states that getting kids outdoors ‘creates lasting memories, helps build a greater awareness of the environment, provides more opportunities to think independently, and gets children feeling challenged and excited by learning.’
Of course, getting outside also improves health and fitness, but new studies¹ are starting to emerge that show children function better in school by spending some time outdoors, particularly in outdoor programmes that focus on building relationships. In light of this I thought I would take the time to highlight a few of the benefits I think can be gained from getting young people outdoors.
Outdoor experiences reveal and encourage the development of character through experiences of ‘the real world’. The outdoors introduces the unpredictable, creating opportunities for building resilience or ‘grit’. It also can provide a context in which to live that is bigger than our man-made structures (both physical and social). As young people are given opportunity to explore the natural world they get to experience a new and exciting way of learning about themselves and others.
Getting kids outside gets them interacting with each in a more realistic way. They learn to do relationships simply by ‘doing relationships’; having fun, exploring together, building memories and even facing conflict, sometimes with each other! While there are times for intentional team building activities, just letting kids be together outdoors can also go a long way to encouraging social skills.
We should not underestimate the value of just having fun, including times where no specific outcomes are attached. Oftentimes, these moments where we ‘get lost in ourselves’ produce the best outcomes. And there is something about playing outdoors that clears, relaxes and encourages children (and adults!) to smile more.
Although we often don’t consider it, one of the greatest teachers of all time, Jesus, also used the outdoors often to reveal life principles, build confidence and grow relationships. Maybe it was easier in his day, but regardless let’s begin to value the benefits of getting outside some more. If you can get outdoors this September 7th, that is great! But even more, make getting outdoors and having fun a regular part of your home, school and work life!
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