Outdoor Learning Environments
There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving. Dr Montessori
In addition to promoting physical activity, engaging outdoor learning environments play a significant role in the development of children’s behavioural and social skills. Studies have shown that children find the outdoor environment to be a place which offers the opportunity to pretend, socialise, observe and move.
So, in a world where play is becoming more sedimentary and screen-based, how can we maximise play and learning in the outdoor environment? (Australian Children’s Education and Quality Care Authority)
The outdoor environment allows children to engage with the natural world, develop an awareness of the fragility of natural environments, and explore nature and concepts through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning.
Outdoor play promotes children’s physical and psychological development through physical activities and play experiences that are challenging, extend thinking and offer opportunities to assess and take appropriate risks. Children also develop their social skills and learn to work collaboratively with others. Importantly, interacting and negotiating with others during outdoor play involves children in problem solving situations and builds resiliency.
In response to the growing body of research which identifies the health risks for children resulting from an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the Australian Government guidelines on physical activity provide guidance on the amount of physical activity children should be engaging in. For children from 5 years to 17 years, this figure is at least 60 minutes of moderate to physical activity each day.
Montessori philosophy is concerned with the holistic development of the child and considering ways to improve children’s physical health and mental wellbeing is an important consideration in our current Strategic Plan. If you have any suggestions about how we can improve our outdoor environment, Noel and I would love to hear them.
Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it’s shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping. Dr Montessori