As a child, it was common to look out the window longing for fresh air and the freedom to move. Now, however, many years later, it is no longer just an idea or hope. Schools around the U.S. are beginning to utilize the great outdoors as an educational tool, and with good results.
A 2008 study found that a majority of children are enthusiastic about learning. After the conclusion of outdoor learning, the study proved that the children’s enthusiasm and motivation levels carried over to indoor education. It also showed that learning while outdoors positively impacted the development of cognitive abilities, more so than traditional learning.
Outdoor education promotes the stimulation of the “happy hormone,” otherwise known as serotonin. The chemical produces feelings of safety and well-being and is released by hearing sounds of nature, music, and receiving high-fives. Tending to and observing a growing tree, as well as educational activities like that, are great for stimulating the “pleasure chemical.” Also known as Dopamine, the pleasure chemical is released by repetitive actions.
Another study, published in Australia proclaimed that outdoor education is a prime factor in avoiding childhood obesity. “Nature-deficit disorder” is a term coined to describe the adverse effects of too much indoor stimulation, such as obesity, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. Reverting to education in an outdoor setting can be an excellent way to protect children from the ‘nature-deficit disorder.
Positive attitudes towards the outdoors were also recorded through observation of outdoor education. It leads to kids having an improved attitude towards the outdoors, which then leads to environmental awareness and responsible behavior; improvements in awareness and behavior increases the child’s ability to behave in an indoor education setting. Studies have shown that outdoor education also improves social adjustment, group-cohesion, and self-concept.
Because of the type of work required outdoors, most of the tasks and goals are done in teams and groups. This requires children to create relationships that they might not have otherwise, as well as take on new roles, such as leader, for tasks that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to lead in any other environment; thus leading to a connection between students and teachers in a community like atmosphere.
Outdoor education relies heavily on volunteers to keep learning possible and children safe. This allows parents the opportunity to get more involved in the learning process, and to see children (including their own) in a different light. Often, parents realize that their kids are far more capable than they are given credit for.
Non-traditional education like outdoor learning offers a creative and fun approach to the world, and it’s information. As well as teaching them the required syllabus, outdoor learning allows students to take on new responsibilities, learn more about the world, themselves, and others.