It’s intuitively understood that giving children time outdoors is good for them in general. But when you’re asked to justify the benefits it can sometimes be hard to define. Our children spend much of their lives inside and attached to technology, so much so that the term ‘nature deficit’ has been coined. Justifying your outdoor lessons with ‘I’m reconnecting children with nature’ can be a little too ‘hippy’ shall we say for some headteachers. However, this is exactly what our children need to thrive! So here at Alfresco Learning we’ve put together some facts to help you explain why reconnecting children with nature should be on your school’s agenda.
You don’t have to go far to hear the overwhelming cries about the state of our planet. It’s everywhere. From the greenpeace protests in city centres to blue planet 2 glaring out of our screens. The next generation are going to be faced with the challenges of climate change. We have a responsibility as educators to prepare them for their futures, but how can we expect these future adults to take care of an environment they’ve never truly spent time in? Playing and learning in natural environments develops a healthy respect for nature and teaches children to empathise with the flora and fauna that surrounds them. Children need to develop this care for nature to give them the motivation to protect it for their future generations.
A study by Davand, P et al (2015) found ‘an improvement in cognitive development associated with surrounding greenness, particularly with greenness at schools.’ This study was conducted on primary aged children and found that those who undertook cognitive tests after spending time in nature excelled in their development of working memory compared to those who were in an urban environment. They also found that inattentiveness in the children observed, reduced as a result of spending time outdoors. Proving that connecting with nature could also bring about academic benefits too!
Exposing young children to a wide range of microbes can help develop and strengthen immune systems into adult life. The rise of immunological diseases in western countries is thought to correlate with the decrease in the variety of germs young children are exposed to. So taking your class outside also aids your children’s long term health!
Nothing awakens the senses quite like being outside. The flurry of colours; the sensations of the weather against your skin; the feel of the textures beneath your feet; the smell of the air; the sound of the howling wind or rustling leaves. All of our senses are stimulated by being outdoors and this holds the key to better mental health. Taking time to engage in these sensations brings children back to the present moment in front of them, quieting the external noise in their mind. Much like how meditation works for adults.
One study has shown that time in nature develops self-discipline in neuro-typical children and children with ADHD. Sahoo, S.K & Senapti A (2014) compared children with ADHD who had spent time in nature with those who had stayed in an urban environment. They found those children with ADHD who had been given the opportunity to spend time outdoors had “shown improvement in functional behavior in family, school, life skills, self concept, social activities & risky activities”. There’s many more studies to show that nature has a positive effect on a wide range of needs. So with most classes presenting so many barriers to learning, why aren’t we taking advantage of this free resource to support our most vulnerable learners?
We live in an era where spending time indoors is becoming more prevalent for children and there are reports of increases in mental health issues amongst the young, demonstrating that reconnecting children with nature is more crucial now than ever before. The next generation deserves to be gifted with all of these benefits and more. If you’re ready to reconnect your class with nature and reap the benefits, start your outdoor learning journey with us. Our workshops can be designed bespoke to your topic & age range, plus we’ll come into your setting to deliver the learning to your class. Head over to our workshops page now to browse and book!
Dadvand, P., Niewenhuijsen, M. J., Esnaola, M., Forns, J., Basagaña, X., Alvarez-Pedrero, M., et al. (2015). Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.U.S.A. 112, 7937–7942. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1503402112
Sahoo, S. K., and Senapati, A. (2014). Effect of sensory diet through outdoor play on functional behaviour in children with ADHD. Indian J. Occup. Ther.46, 49–54
Some of the outdoor workshops we offer to reconnect your class with nature: