The importance of Outdoor Learning

Elmhurst School for Boys

11th May 2018 | Heads Blog

I am certain that anyone who was at the 5 Years of Forest School celebration last week will agree that it was a very special event which perfectly encapsulated the ethos and vision of Elmhurst School as well as demonstrating how important it is to have an outdoor classroom. When I think back to my own Grammar School education, it was the field trips and the outdoor sporting events that stick in the memory with great fondness. However, whilst being outdoors may create great memories, it may not necessarily create meaningful learning experiences.

Mrs Mawanda has developed a unique outdoor curriculum at Elmhurst with structured outdoor learning opportunities combined with the freedom of Forest School. Every session she leads is carefully planned to provide practical, first-hand memorable experiences to enrich the curriculum taught in school. This is followed by time for every boy to experience Forest School which is essentially holistic. Boys follow their own interests and ideas, thinking creatively and critically and are given ownership over their learning which makes it truly meaningful. They are given time to reflect and review the session: a time to recognise and embed their learning as well as develop an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, helping them to grow and develop as human beings.

A crucial part of Forest School is that the boys are allowed to ‘play’ outside. Sir Ken Robinson, a leading educationalist, states:

Play is a highly beneficial and deeply natural way in which kids learn… Play has deeply important roles in the development of intellectual skills, in social skills, in developing empathy, in stretching our imaginations and exploring our creativity. (Dirt is Good 2016)

Yet despite this, Sir Ken says children are playing much less than they used to. The Dirt is Good campaign surveyed around 12000 parents in 10 countries. The top-line finding – described by Sir Ken as ‘startling’ – was that the average child spends less time out of doors now than the average high security prisoner. In the UK, this means nearly three-quarters of children spending less than an hour a day outside.

Technology is powerful and moving fast. Children are spending more and more time on screens. We know as parents how difficult it is sometimes to tear our children away from the latest game. Forest School is helping our boys connect with nature and realise that being outside is fun. The positive relationship our boys are building with the outdoors is contributing to their active, healthy lifestyles and positive mental health.

Albert Einstein stated famously:

Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.

We look forward to many more years of Forest School at Elmhurst.

-  AJ Padfield

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