Outdoors is the perfect environment for children to be, well children. Its freedom, its beauty and its natural harbour embodies the innocence of childhood. Jumping, shouting, running and exploring are all elements that the outdoor welcomes into its bosom. Children find such comfort in their playgrounds and garden spaces. This is the plateaux where they can truly discover and develop their intrinsic abilities to explore, to take risks and to fine tune their bodies to the big world around them. Early childhood development is all happening outside of the classroom, thus its important to bridge a learning environment that marries the positives of both educational realms.
We learn so much in the classroom, but we also learn so much from just being and that’s the fun part of learning anything, experience. We can learn that ice is cold to touch and can crack if we listen; we can learn that mud is squishy and dirty; we can learn that rain makes us wet and is beautiful to hear and we can learn that thunder and lightning is scary and loud all in the classroom. But it is so much more memorable if we actually experience these phenomena ourselves in the great outdoors.
Unfortunately, society is taking away the outdoor environment through videogames, T.V and social networks. Additionally, the average parent has a much busier lifestyle than of decades ago. This is great for the individual parent who yearns for something more than just being at home waiting for the school bell to ring (amongst the household chores) but has come at a price of the average child’s childhood. Not many have the time to be outside anymore.
We as teachers must encourage our children to be outside as much as possible. Lessons about the seasons and weather are the obvious go-to outdoor lessons. But phonics and maths are there too. ‘a’ is the sound of the day or week, then take them outside to find anything that starts with that sound: an ant hunt can be very fun! Count the trees or add the leaves are all excellent ways of learning that involve the outdoors and the children don’t even realise they are still in school. Learning through playing, I believe the old saying goes.
Adults need the great outdoors too. Too often we are stuck indoors eyes glued to a screen smaller than our palm. It’s plain to see in restaurants, in pubs and in parks: people out in a social setting messaging someone who is not even there. It is about time we all took a step outdoors and allowed a big breath of fresh air into our lives, because my, oh my, we do need it.
Flavia works as a teacher in the Early Years & Foundation Stage department