Teachers are focused on ensuring students are learning and immersed in the curriculum. Due to convenience and accessibility to resources, the majority of learning occurs within a classroom setting but if you were to ask any teacher about outdoor learning their face would light up. The truth is, we love an opportunity to get students out of their comfort zones and immerse them in a different learning environment.
Camps and outdoor activities are designed to stretch students and see how they cope in alternate environments. Here are 4 benefits of outdoor learning:
1. Decreased stress levels
Fresh air and nature sounds such as birds are known triggers that encourage the release of serotonin (the happy hormone). When serotonin is released into the brain a person is generally happier, they have less focus on stressors in their life and they think more clearly. Paths to see through the stress are formed coping strategies are evident.
2. Enhanced communication skills
Outdoor education achieves gains in communication by requiring students to problem solve whilst working in teams. On the recent year 9 Camp students were placed in teams of 7 and were asked to solve complex problems, rather than nominating a leader of the group to speak, students decided that non-verbal communication tools were used to complete the task and ensure all members of the group were included. When the coordinator asked the student to reflect on the task, students commented on how valuable it was “every member was able to have their point understood without other speaking over the top of them’.
3. Increased resilience
Some outdoor environments are physically challenging for students and they feel out of their comfort zone. Some bush walks, flying foxes and rope climbs are designed to be a mental and physical challenge where the heart and head are often at war and a compromise is required. These are physical activities that safely push students beyond what they feel they are capable of, pushing oneself can lead to enhanced self-reliance, confidence and increased self-esteem.
4. Increased outdoor skills
Education is very effective when paired with experience. It is much easier to learn to ride a bike by physically trying, rather than someone trying to explain it to you. Hands on experience is beneficial and is easily transferred back into the classroom setting; for example, reading a map, setting up a tent, using a compass, focusing binoculars, watching whales or dolphins in the ocean, these are points that students will talk about in class but it has more weight if a student has experienced it.
With these things in mind, consider what learning environments you can immerse yourself in this weekend…. What bush walk, bike ride or outdoor adventure can the family participate in? Challenge your children by asking questions along the way, see if your child could read the signs, and coordinate the best route using a map; I’m sure the teacher would love to hear about the learning occurring outside of the classroom!
Mrs Emma Davidge / Head of Senior School