When students get outdoors and onto the farm some wonderful things happen.
They get energised and absorbed in the tasks, they run and move, there is more laughter, and they want to engage with each other and the task at hand. We see the quiet and reserved children step up and speak up.
When adults think back to their own happiest memories of childhood, they frequently recall the joy of playing outdoors and being in nature. Play is not only central to children’s enjoyment of childhood, but teaches critical life skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and creativity.
Our outdoor classroom program combines therapeutic, educational and social benefits to students. Here are 10 specific, and somewhat surprising, benefits of getting students outdoors!
1) Intelectual Development
According to a 2005 study by Kellert, spending time in nature allows children to develop the capacity for creativity, problem-solving and intellectual development. As well as assisting them in developing the skills to collate a range of information which greatly enhances their ability to learn.
2) Improved Coping Mechanisms
A 2003 study by Wells and Evans showed that children who spent time interacting with nature showed a heightened ability to cope with stressful events.
3) Improved Science Knowledge
A study by the American Institute for research back in 2005 on the effectiveness of outdoor education programmes reported a 27% increase in science scores in children who had participated in such programmes.
And these results didn’t diminish over time, children who spend time learning in nature show significantly and consistently improved academic performance.
4) Better Social Skills
Another consistent theme in a diverse range of research, show that children who spend time in nature are more civil. When children have regular opportunities for free unstructured play in natural environments they are better able to get on with others (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005) and rates of bullying are vastly reduced or even, in some cases, eliminated altogether (Malone and Tranter 2003).
5) Improves Eyesight
A study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology back in 2011 showed that time spent outdoors was linked to significantly reduced rates of myopia (near-sightedness) in both adults and children!
6) Improves Self-Discipline
Children who have access to green spaces, according to a 2001 study by Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, show rapid improvement to their self-discipline skills, these skills have been linked to a reduction in aggressive behaviour, lower rates of anxiety and depression in adulthood and lower rates of self-destructive behaviours in adulthood so are well worth developing!
7) Better Concentration
There is a direct correlation between the level of access to natural views and direct contact with nature and the ability to concentrate and focus. According to two studies (Wells, 2000 and Taylor et al 2002) this isn’t a limited benefit and grows with exposure. So essentially, the greener the better!
8) Increased Imagination and Sense of Wonder
Exposing children to the natural world at a very young age has been directly linked to their development of a sense of wonder and imagination (Cobb, 1977 and Louv 1991). Why is this important? Well, according to Wilson (1997) a well-developed sense of wonder helps to harbour motivation for lifelong learning and development.
9) Boosts Self-Esteem
In 2013 a university of Essex reported that children who spend time engaging in ‘green exercise’, that is spending time outdoors in nature, tend to have higher self-esteem, better moods, be members of groups and volunteer more.
10) We Protect What We Love
Early exposure to natural environments and environmental issues may help to build better environmental decision makers for the future (Steampfli, 2008).
- Burdette H L and Whitaker R C. (2005). Resurrecting free play in young children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 159, 46-50
- Cobb, E. (1977). The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, New York, Columbia University Press
- Kellert, Stephen, R. (2005). Understanding the Human-Nature Connection. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2005.
- Louv, Richard (1991). Childhood’s Future, New York, Doubleday.
- Malone, Karen & Tranter, Paul (2003). Children’s Environmental Learning and the Use, Design and Management of Schoolgrounds, Children, Youth and Environments, 13(2)
- Staempfli, M. B. (2008). Reintroducing adventure into children‘s outdoor play environments. Environment and Behavior, 4(2), 1-6.
- Taylor A F, Wiley A, Kuo F E & Sullivan W C. (1998). Growing up in the inner city: green spaces as places to grow. Environment and Behaviour, 30, 3-27
- Taylor, A.F., Kuo, F.E. & Sullivan, W.C. (2002). Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 49-63
- Wells N M. (2000). At home with nature: effects of “greenness” on children’s cognitive functioning. Environment and Behaviour, 32, 775-795
- Wells, N. and Evans, G. (2003). Nearby nature: a buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment and Behavior 35(3): 311–30
- Wilson, Ruth A. (1997). The Wonders of Nature – Honoring Children’s Ways of Knowing, Early Childhood News, 6(19).