Why take learning outdoors?
While the definitions for the term "Outdoor Education" vary, they do hinge on one central point: using the five senses to learn through experience within an environment.
How to Conduct Meaningful Outdoor Learning
What is Outdoor Education?
Research on the benefits of being outdoors indicate that taking student (and adult) learning into nature can enhance their development, social relations, moods, and more.
According to the Natural Learning Initiative out of North Carolina State University, the benefits of outdoor learning include:
enhanced cognitive abilitites,
heightened academic performance,
reduced symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder,
improved social relations,
stronger eyesight, and more.
Edutopia also published this post regarding five additional benefits to outdoor learning which include the ways in which learning outdoors builds community.
There are many ways to bring the benefits of the outdoors into everyday instruction. You could:
Create your own outdoor classroom. The Outdoor Classroom Project, KaBOOM, and Fernbank Science Center offer tips on how to get started.
Learn how to use your existing outdoor classroom with resources from Project Learning Tree (they also offer face-to-face trainings at Zoo Atlanta).
Find connections between your current unit and the outdoors. Do characters in your current novel do anything outdoors? How can math be used to solve problems outside your building? Can students set better personal fitness records indoors or out?
Have students volunteer outdoors:
12 Volunteer Opportunities for Kids
Search results from VolunteerMatch.org
Hands On Atlanta Youth and Family Volunteering
Brought to you by:
This week's theme: Taking Learning Outdoors
The Friday 5: Concise, curated content to enhance the digital and multimedia learning in your corner of the world.
These websites feature resources and ideas for taking learning beyond your school building.
Lesson Plans from Project Learning Tree
Tips for Teaching Outdoors from Project Learning Tree
General Resources from the Georgia Forestry Association
Outdoor Play Resources from Let The Children Play
Resources for Learning Outdoors
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Connecting Outside Your Community
Get creative in the ways you immerse your students/faculty/staff in nature. While there is no substitute for the real thing, consider finding ways to take the learning into an environment on a different continent! The tools below offer ways to streach learning beyond physical borders and boundaries:
PenPal Schools: Students can learn with others from across the world.
Mystery Skype: Connect one classroom to another through Skype, and the students have to use what they know to figure out where their new friends are from.