What happens to children when they get a daily dose of trees and fresh air? When they have the opportunity to get outside briefly for a walk, learn lessons outdoors, or simply reflect in front of a natural scene?
Many studies indicate that playing, relaxing and learning in natural settings can help reduce stress. Brief nature walks can reduce anxiety and distractions, and when teachers take students outside to learn, they can become more motivated and self-directed. A 2021 study by Rian and Coll found that third grade students who participated in a nature-based guidance program had a lower level of anxiety than those in a control group based on a measure of childhood anxiety and connection to nature. During the current year filled with so much anxiety and catch up from COVID-related setbacks, could there be a better time to start incorporating more learning outdoors?
In addition to reducing stress, learning outdoors has been found to boost concentration and improve overall mood. Students and teachers alike can reap many of these benefits just by taking learning outdoors.
The above image was taken at Rouge Park in Detroit, Michigan. As part of our adult professional development we visit the park throughout the four seasons.
While some place-based educators may focus solely on environmental issues and themes, the SEMIS Coalition has always taken the approach that ecological and social issues are intertwined, and place-based education is best addressed through an eco-justice lens. Therefore, we strongly recognize the importance of access to the outdoors and nature as a basic human right and encourage teachers to include schooling outside as a part of their school day whenever possible. SEMIS coaches are available to help facilitate and support outdoor learning, including the following tips on many of the how’s and what’s to teaching outdoors.
Rian, S.W., & Coll, K.M. (2021). Increased exposure to nature reduces elementary students’ anxiety. Ecopsychology, 13(4). http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/eco.2020.0070