The benefits of outdoor learning
Do you carry fond memories of school trips, expeditions and activities? For many of us, these memories are some of the most vivid and affecting of our entire childhoods – exploring the great outdoors with friends and discovering all that nature has to offer.
While the benefits of outdoor learning are ever-present, many kids don’t get the same opportunities to learn outside the classroom as past generations once did. Sadly, computers, phones, TV, video games and social media are never far away, and it can mean that some children are less encouraged to leave their home for information, enjoyment or adventure.
Did you know that the current generation of kids in the UK spends 50% less time playing outside than their parents’ generation? And that 56% of children spend less than an hour a day playing outside? This is despite 92% of children actually wanting more outdoor playtime and 95% of parents believing that outdoor learning and activities have a positive impact on the development of social skills.
“Natural outdoor environments can offer a very special kind of learning experience: the opportunity for discovery and learning through touching and feeling, the chance to explore and take risks, the stimulations of the fresh air and limitless skies.” – Sir David Attenborough
Our team at Stubbers couldn’t agree more with Sir David! Outdoor learning activities greatly enrich learning, presenting tactile, sensory experiences and discovery opportunities that are impossible to recreate in the classroom or in front of a screen. That’s why we gear our outdoor activities, not only to be as fun as possible for children aged 5½ upwards, but to aid the development of valuable communication, leadership and problem-solving skills.
In this blog, we highlight the importance of outdoor learning for children of all ages and outline some of the key benefits it offers in their short-term and long-term development.
WHAT IS OUTDOOR LEARNING?
We’re talking about getting kids engaged with activities in a natural environment, outside the traditional classroom, and making sure they learn something at the same time! This can cover outdoor play ideas, sports, environmental education, excursions, adventure activities and much, much more.
A lot of outdoor learning is experience-led, which is crucial for developing how younger children engage with the world around them. But, the benefits of outdoor learning extend far beyond a child’s early years, and it can be a fantastic way to switch up the learning experience, adding a hands-on, physical component.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR LEARNING
And it’s not just Sir David and the Stubbers team that rate outdoor learning as a must-have aspect of a child’s overall school experience. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum promotes this heavily in their programmes for children up to the end of Reception year. Daily outdoor experiences are how children learn how to interact with the wider world and develop abilities and behaviours that will support them throughout their life.
But learning outside the classroom doesn’t become less valuable beyond this point. Technology has expanded our horizons and has given us access to a whole world of information, but it’s a great shame when this comes at the expense of experiencing the natural world first-hand. You can learn all about a tree’s makeup from a Wikipedia page or watch a YouTube tutorial about how to light a campfire, but it doesn’t give the same experience or engagement as seeing them in real life!
And this is what we have been in danger of losing in recent years – outdoor learning activities have gradually fallen by the wayside in favour of more cost-effective, results-focused and “safe” forms of education. But this approach bypasses an essential component of children’s development – the sensory rush of being active outdoors.
A 2018 report by Learning through Landscapes (LTL) and Project Dirt highlighted that 81% of teachers in the UK believe their students don’t get enough outside learning, despite 90% indicating that children were more engaged when they took classes outdoors.
This interaction between children and the environment is something we’re fiercely passionate about at Stubbers. We hope that movements like Outdoor Classroom Day will continue to encourage the importance of outdoor learning in schools across the UK and beyond. But, considering the range of benefits it offers, we feel it’s something schools should be embracing throughout the school year.
9 BENEFITS OF OUTDOOR LEARNING
1. A change of scenery
Variety is crucial in keeping children engaged – too much of the same setting is likely to cause them to lose concentration. Outdoor learning can provide a welcome change of scenery for students. This is a win-win, as they’re likely to engage enthusiastically with the practical, physical outdoor activities, and also re-enter the classroom refreshed and ready to resume lessons after their outdoor experience.
2. Get them up and active
Exercise is important at all ages, but especially for children, as their bodies are still growing and changing in response to their genes and environment. Outdoor lessons help to keep them fit, active and moving, give a welcome boost of energy, and allow them to absorb the benefits of natural sunlight and fresh air.
3. Spot hazards and risks
"The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves.” – Roald Dahl
We want to ensure our children are protected and safe at all times, but we can’t wrap them in cotton wool forever. Experiencing the real outdoors allows children to better identify risks and hazards than if they only learned them in a classroom. Kids can experience first-hand how skills such as listening, spatial awareness, balance and consideration for others can help prevent accidents.
This is something we are keen to emphasise in our outdoor activities at Stubbers. We take every safety measure to keep children safe from harm, while allowing them first-hand experience of hazards and how to approach them safely.
4. Find creative solutions
Outdoor learning benefits students by placing them in “real” situations where they have to think creatively to solve problems. In the classroom, this is something they can only conceptualise. In the “real world”, this will encourage students to use their imagination and put into practice ideas and applications learned in other lessons, so they more clearly understand how and why things work the way they do.
5. Become more socially confident
Spending too much time engaged in solitary research and entertainment can cause kids to be less socially capable and confident in later life. Learning and play outdoors encourages them to socialise with their peers in a more informal, exciting environment than the classroom.
At Stubbers, we take this a step further with outdoor learning activities and team challenges designed to build collaboration, communication and leadership – valuable skills for children to pick up early and run with the rest of their lives.
6. Grow their appreciation of nature
Growing up with a respect, understanding and love of nature is becoming increasingly recognised as an important part of children’s development. Developing this appreciation of the environment will help kids recognise the importance of recycling, preservation and more, and goes a long way in our efforts to promote environmental awareness.
7. Discover unique outdoor experiences
As we’ve mentioned, experiencing the world through a computer screen is not the same as truly being out in nature. Outdoor games and lessons give children early, direct experience with the world around us, from weather changes to the effects of the seasons. These activities give them a sensory understanding of the world that you can’t capture in a traditional classroom.
8. Give them room to grow
Whether it’s learning outside the classroom or just outdoor play, nature literally and figuratively gives children more space to experience, develop and grow as people. Although it’s important to monitor students’ behaviour and ensure their safety, allowing them freedom through outdoor learning develops their confidence, personality and resilience in ways that typical indoor lessons can’t match.
9. Associate learning with fun & adventure
Finally, students are more likely to connect with lessons that are fun, engaging and exciting. This can be accomplished both inside and outside the classroom, but outdoor learning offers more space for children to play games, explore the world around them and be actively involved in adventures that they’ll remember for years after.
OUTDOOR LEARNING & AMAZING ADVENTURE AT STUBBERS
Outdoor learning should be considered a pivotal part of every child’s development, and we hope this breakdown of its many benefits has helped you form that opinion as well. Giving kids more outdoor education and playtime should be something we continue to promote in schools and beyond, so they can grow beyond the screens and jump into a world of adventure.
That’s what we’re all about at Stubbers. We’re passionate about introducing young people to the great outdoors and creating the ultimate outdoor classroom. With over 30 activities available across land, air and water, we ensure kids have a varied and exciting experience at Stubbers and take away valuable communication, problem-solving and leadership skills.
So, if you’d like to expand your students’ learning outside the classroom and into a world of adventure, then Stubbers Adventure Centre should be high on your list.
Our fully-trained team has been accommodating visits from schools, colleges and youth groups throughout the UK for decades, and our Head Of Operations Ben Woodcock has a wealth of experience in facilitating educational visits from schools and youth groups.
Call Ben on 01708 224753 or email [email protected] for more details.