Today, the average Canadian child spends over 95% of their time indoors, most of that in front of a screen! Research shows that children flourish when they are connected with nature. Child obesity decreases, bully rates decrease, child injury rates decrease, while academic achievement rises, physical activity rates increase, attention spans improve, and environmental stewards of the future emerge. Outdoor Education is increasing the time children spend outdoors during their school day. It allows teachers to take the curriculum and think of ways they can teach their content in an outdoor space.
You might be thinking, what is outdoor education? Is it just learning about tree species, identifying birds, critter dipping, etc? Outdoor education does not only mean learning about nature, instead it is about learning in nature. It means taking any type of organized learning activity and doing it outdoors in our natural environment; using the outside as a classroom space instead of being indoors between 4 concrete walls for the entire day. Outdoor Education allows students to experience what they are learning and develop a connection to it.
“Outdoor learning provides opportunities for some students to shine when they don't always in the indoor classroom” (Grade 1 teacher at Salem)
What child doesn’t love the outdoors? Now imagine learning each day submersed in the amazing elements that surround us.
At Salem Elementary School, they created a number of outdoor learning areas and collected educational equipment to assist the teachers with this shift in education. Over the past two years teachers have been increasing their time spent learning outside and have seen great benefits and changes in their students. Some teachers and students rely on that time learning outside and say that “on the rare days when we did not go outside we all felt like something was missing from our day” (Grade 1 teacher). Students are becoming more interested in learning, their attention spans and attentiveness are increasing, and they are becoming more aware and connected with the world around them.
“If you are learning about science you actually see it happen. It feels fresh to be outside. It just feels nice” (Grade 3 student at Salem)
Sackville is an amazing place to see change and to develop more outdoor education in our local schools. We have a unique natural environment that surrounds us: forests, wetlands, marshes and the Bay of Fundy. We have a wonderful network of resources and experts in environmental education. We have a number of people who are passionate about seeing outdoor education develop more in our schools and are willing to help wherever they can. We have a great model at Salem Elementary School demonstrating how outdoor education can work and be beneficial to both educators and students. Finally, we have inspiring teachers who are willing to try new things and change their teaching styles to meet the needs of students today.
“It offers students hands-on learning in a stimulating environment that indoor classrooms just can't provide” (Grade 3 teacher at Salem)
Sackville Schools 2020 would like all students to have the chance to learn outdoors. It is one of our principle goals to encourage more outdoor learning and consider outdoor education during the creation of any new learning environments.