Many kids would jump at the opportunity to learn outdoors, but we often view their outdoor time as “play time” or in the educational setting as a time for physical education. What if children could be immersed in programs that involve education of a different sort? Here are five reasons why outdoor education benefits children:
1) Engagement in the Classroom
One benefit of outdoor education for students is that they become more engaged and less distracted. This applies to children with and without Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder. Some might believe the opposite, that having time to learn outdoors would leave children in a hyperactive state which would be counterproductive to learning, but studies have shown that the opposite is true. Outdoor experiential learning programs lead to better engagement in the classroom. Additionally, when they have first-hand involvement in solving a problem or executing an activity, they’re more likely to take ownership of the situation.
What is Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning is a process where one learns by going through an experience first-hand. Educators and Psychologists have seen correlations between experience and education for several decades. Psychologists John Dewey and Jean Piaget were pioneers of experiential learning. However, many of the modern views on experiential learning theory come from education theorist and Professor of Organizational Behavior, David A. Kolb. In his scholarly writings, Kolb points out that the central role of experience in the learning process is what differentiates experiential learning from other learning theories. Kolb viewed this process as transformative because the individual could take their knowledge and understanding to a whole new level. Herein lies the purpose of experiential learning programs- to take what the individual has studied in a classroom and enhance that knowledge by giving them the opportunity to do or see these principles in action.
2) Accelerated Learning
There are many advantages to experiential learning programs and one of them is accelerated learning. Experiential learning involves critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills. It goes beyond the theories taught in the classroom to offer first hand experience, which further aids in the retention of these new concepts.
3) Building meaningful experiences
Another benefit that reinforces the importance of outdoor education is the social aspect. Outdoor education programs can also offer children the ability to serve others, whether it involves animals or other folks in the community. Additionally, students have the opportunity to develop closer bonds with their classmates which they can take back to the classroom.
4) Appealing to Different Learning Styles
One of the noted benefits of outdoor education includes offering children hands-on learning. When they are immersed in these interactive experiences, children are able to use more of their senses than in a classroom setting. Another benefit derived from outdoor learning is the variety and deviation from their normal routine. The variety of experiences in the programs themselves offer knowledge to students within the context of their own learning style. Outdoor learning programs provide children with the ability to view new careers, develop new passions and interests, and see new horizons.
5) Increased Physical Activity
In contrast with physical education which sometimes causes emotional discomfort for children, when students are able to participate in outdoor learning they can engage in physical activity without fearing judgment of their abilities. Whether it involves walking, swimming, canoeing, or other forms of physical activity children are able to get the exercise their bodies require while learning about nature and scientific concepts. In addition to combating childhood obesity, The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation states that exposure to nature could lower stress levels in children by nearly 28%.
STEM-Focused Outdoor Education in South Florida
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