When you hear the term “think outside,” you may think it means thinking outside the box. Lately, the box has become synonymous with the classroom, and teachers are seeing a benefit from students going outside the classroom into nature.
Why does getting outside affect students so much? We want to look at just three ways that being out in nature can improve how students learn and interact with the world around them.
Improves Performance AND Mental Health
The classroom can be a stressful place for a child to learn. They are confined to a desk, boxed in with 20 to 30 other kids, and taught how to answer questions on their tests correctly. Not only does getting outside give students a tangible world from which to learn, but it also reduces students' stress when learning and improves their mental health.
Spending time outside can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, and lower blood pressure. With the decreased stress levels, students can learn new concepts. Some countries have seen an improvement in students’ understanding of scientific concepts through outdoor education and an increase in test scores. A study found that test scores increased by 27% when students attended outdoor schooling.
Real World Problem Solving
Getting out into nature also opens students up to real-world problem solving. In nature, anything can happen; it can suddenly start raining, or a baby bird may fall out of its nest. By having students experience the uncertainty of nature rather than the structured routine of the standard classroom, they can become better prepared to handle unfamiliar situations they encounter in everyday life.
Students also learn how their actions can have immediate effects on their environment. Nature exposes them to a different point of view. Whether it’s an animal scared out of its home or an ecosystem interrupted by outside interference, students see firsthand how humanity affects the rest of the world.
Speaking of humanity’s effect on the rest of the world, learning outside can also give students a sense of stewardship over their environment. Today's students will oversee the planet long after many current adults leave this world. If they learn that nature is separate from their lives, they will treat it as something different from their everyday priorities. However, by interacting with the environment, students are more likely to feel responsible for the environment and see it as an integral part of their community. This way of thinking will lead to stronger community leaders and, hopefully, a safer environment for future generations to enjoy.
There are understandable benefits of keeping kids in classrooms. A classroom comes with a sense of control, safety, and routine that are all important to a child’s development. However, getting kids outside, even for the occasional class assignment, can have substantial benefits in connecting students to their community. In nature, students are given the freedom to learn from each other and the world around them in a way the classroom can’t replicate. So, take a few moments out of your day and take your kids outside to learn. You might be surprised by what you also learn along the way.