By Kylee Harris
Outdoor learning can have a range of benefits on both student mental health and academic performance, with students often calmer and better able to focus when learning in nature. While the coronavirus pandemic led to many schools holding class outside to prevent the spread of the virus, learning outside can still be beneficial – pandemic or not. From the effects that learning outdoors can have to the variety of different ways that nature can play a role in education, here are just a few inspiring ideas worth keeping in mind.
Outdoor learning can have a range of benefits on both student mental health and academic performance, with students often calmer and better able to focus when learning in nature.
A variety of benefits
According to Healthline, spending time in nature can bring a variety of benefits, citing one 2019 study that included data from 19,806 participants, which found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature per week can significantly boost health and wellbeing. Healthline further discusses the benefits of spending time outside – one of which is the fact that sunlight can often help ease symptoms of depression (like low mood and fatigue). As for students, an article from The University of Arizona Global Campus blog notes that some of the many benefits of working and studying outdoors include increased natural energy, boosted problem-solving skills, reduced stress, and improved mood – to name just a few.
A dedicated outdoor space – whether its purpose be to recharge on a break or to complete homework/classwork outside – is just one way to reap the benefits of being surrounded by nature. Beautifying the space with the incorporation of plenty of plants, a table for studying, and an overhead canopy for shade are just a few ideas worth including. While schools may worry about the costs associated in regard to maintaining such outdoor spaces, implementing cost effective elements into the landscape can make for an ideal, low-maintenance solution. The inclusion of natural flowers and grasses that tend to prune themselves, along with the incorporation of hardscaping that ensures beds are only so deep will allow for little maintenance. In addition to a dedicated outdoor space, however, there are a variety of inspiring outdoor activities that can aid in learning a myriad of lessons.
A dedicated outdoor space – whether its purpose be to recharge on a break or to complete homework/classwork outside – is just one way to reap the benefits of being surrounded by nature.
The value of a garden
According to one post from the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA), school gardens have the potential to teach a variety of valuable lessons – from connecting with nature to teaching mindfulness to improving children’s diets. “The simple act of caring for living soil and plants gives children a foundation for understanding the principles of birth, growth, maturity, death, competition, cooperation and many other lessons that transfer to human lives”, going on to point out that “In a school garden, children experience these lessons ‘hands on’ through a learning method that is rich and inclusive to varied learning abilities”.
Whether you’re homeschooling your child or they go to school, a garden can teach a myriad of different lessons. For instance, learning about growing plants can help teach science lessons (such as the life cycle of a plant), while growing food can aid in learning about the importance of a healthy diet. When spending time in the garden planting or tending to the plants, children can also learn the value of working together to achieve a common goal, thus making it a great team-building exercise as well.