Connecting Children with Nature Through Outdoor Learning
Even at its most mundane, nature has a knack for sparking curiosity. From woodland and heath, to the miniature worlds hidden underfoot, nature has a special way of aweing us. For children, that experience is even greater – and it can enrich their education in profound ways. The lush, green grounds of our independent school in Dorset are the perfect stage for an outdoor learning experience.
The Finnish Approach
Finland is often credited with having one of the greatest school systems in the world. It’s where children don’t start school until they’re seven, and learn about nature and play before anything else.
While things might be a little different in the UK, we do have an excellent education system – in fact, it’s one of the best in the world. Schools in England have also long held that understanding nature and wildlife are integral parts of a rounded and balanced education: one that inspires as much as possible, keeping children engaged with learning.
There’s a lot behind the success of Finland in particular – and one of them is the deep connection with nature, both pre-school and during. Children who live in bustling cities, far from the wilderness, are given the opportunity by their school to go into the wild (supervised, of course!) often, levelling the playing field with their rural-living classmates.
What adds the value to these excursions is having a knowledgeable, patient teacher on their side. Supervision, guidance and knowledge can turn a short walk into a class – an experience that will stay with children for life.
The Wonder of Nature
Do you remember the first time you saw a frog? Do you remember learning the mind-blowing fact that they transform from tadpoles? Do you remember catching tadpoles, and seeing little legs poking out of them?
What seems so obvious and clear to us now was once a revelation – and watching children experience that is incredible. Reactions range from open-mouthed awe to disbelief. That kind of first-hand experience sparks a desire to know more: how and why do frogs come from tadpoles first? It gives children a focus and the drive to know more.
Curiosity makes children active learners. And all it can take to spark a lifelong passion is a walk outside with their teacher.
What are the Benefits of Outdoor Learning?
Children are all born scientists, with a thirst for experimentation and exploration. The great outdoors have always been a laboratory for children. By devoting more time to hands-on outdoor learning, children feel actively involved, present and included in their education – and barely notice that they’re being educated at all.
Learning in this way doesn’t “sneak” an education into young minds – that implies that children don’t want to learn. Neither does it serve as a distraction from the core subjects. It’s part of the balance of life – one that helps inspire children to learn autonomously. It can spark a passion in science, nature and sport. It can help counter the tide of childhood obesity, and the phenomenon of rising screen use. It’s good for physical and mental health.
All of that seems obvious – but it’s often the simplest things that have the most profound impact of all.
We are Clayesmore School, a leading boarding school in Dorset. Located in the heart of the Dorset countryside, nature’s on our doorstep. We know the value that the outdoors has to children of all ages, and we encourage our students to keep their curiosity alive within our beautiful, green grounds.