Benefits and impacts of outdoor learning

There are numerous benefits from outdoor learning, a number have been summarized:

  • Physical Development

    Outdoor learning has a direct positive impact on physical development:

    • Moving from one activity to another often means physically moving location.
    • Many activities have movement elements in them where participants must use all the space available.
    • Specific activities, like exploring, tree climbing, building dens from natural materials and collecting, require much more physical effort then indoor activities.
    • With the outdoor classroom being physically larger than many indoor classrooms, it provides more opportunities for physical development o take place.
  • Intellectual Development

    This enables a depth of understanding to be explored. For example:

    • Discussing and learning how to lay and light a fire takes the learner into science and can be developed as deep as needed, from what elements are involved to how they change structure during the burning process.
    • Learning from fires can be extended by looking into making char-cloth, charcoal for writing/mark making, plus exploring different burning qualities of wood and other materials.
    • Areas like maths can be practically applied to see concepts are actually understood, rather than just a paper calculation. Measuring the crown, height and girth of a tree, a test even for teaching staff!
    • The whole outdoors is a living classroom for studying flora and forna. Rather than looking at text books and the internet, the actual trees, plants, insects, and animals are all around.
  • Language Development

    Outdoor Learning activities present opportunities for language development.

    • The variety of subjects covered - discussing the various environments, flora, fauna, and the science behind that holds it all together, how people feel about the activity, etc.
    • The set up allows the practitioners to follow the interests of participants down whatever avenue they chose to take it.
    • Specific activities can be put in place in order to develop areas of language that is required.
    • Outdoor Learning is seen as being practically successful for developing boys language and vocab.
  • Emotional Development

    The outdoor environment enables everyone to take an actual and metaphorical deep breath. This key aspect allows for:

    • The release of tension.
    • Freedom of work.
    • Discussions on far ranging topics,school / work related or not.

    The activities and tasks that are implemented are challenging, yet achievable. These stretch the individuals, but do not tip them into the uncomfortable zone.

  • Spiritual Development

    The open roof and natural surroundings of the outdoor classroom, allows direct contact with mother nature. This atmosphere allows for the individual to take what they want and need as a spiritual experience.

    The type of activities that support and encourage this include:

    • Exploring how people feel and how they feel about the space, weather, trees, plants, animals.
    • Discussions around the campfire.
    • Putting out the campfire as a group with cups of water taken from the same bucket.
    • Once a log book has been made, making your own marks in it to reflect on how one feels.
    • Creating of natural pictures to express how the event, day, week has gone and what you have got out of it.
  • Social Development

    Social development is achieved on a number of different levels:

    • Working together in small and larger groups, often in unfamiliar environments, requires participants to interact in many different ways than in the indoor classroom. Individuals have space to form new and different friendships.
    • Working with often small groups in the Forest School set up, allows for deeper and less formal discussions to take place.
    • Working over a number of weeks, enables these social developments to take place at their own speed.
  • Cultural Development

    All cultures can be accommodated in the woods, except perhaps for the continuing culture of the coach potato culture! Children can:

    • Explore in safety
    • Take park and support games
    • Use natural materials to create sculptures and pictures

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