by Hazel Stark
In an effort to synthesize some of the latest research about outdoor education, MOS Co-Founder Hazel Stark recently published an article through the Matador Network to share the many benefits of outdoor education with a broader audience. Check out the article here to learn about why learning outdoors is so important, how it solves many of our current problems, and what exactly it is! Here are some excerpts:
“Children are spending an average of over 40 hours per week on screens, not including the time they spend on computers when they’re at school. Schools are also noticing decreasing attention spans (humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish), a notable increase in a range of mental and physical health problems, and parents with an increased sense of fear for the safety of their children. Meanwhile, school teachers are struggling with increased demands on having their students meet a variety of learning standards and are often trying to gain more classroom time by minimizing recess-time.”
“In a 6th-grade outdoor geology class I used to teach, I brought my students to an area full of big rocks and told them to explore — by climbing, tunneling, and crawling—in an effort to answer one question: how did these rocks get here? Students naturally tested their limits on the slippery rocks, helping one another through tight squeezes and pulling each other to high places. They not only developed grit and self-esteem by challenging themselves, but also communicated with each other face-to-face and hand-to-hand, developing direct interpersonal skills. Considering such a broad question during their explorations also encouraged critical thinking and problem-solving in a real-world setting, which is correlated with higher test scores, academic achievement, and memory retention.
In younger children, regular outdoor learning experiences help them develop fine motor skills, enhance creativity, and develop the capacity for empathy — critical skills acquired during early childhood and correlated with becoming responsible adults. Outdoor education takes a slightly less structured approach for these younger children, free play being especially important for brain development, but playing with sticks, making fairy houses, matching natural objects to colorful paint chips, and making leaf rubbings all enhance their imaginations and engagement in the world around them.”