The Outdoor Classroom of Al Ghadeer Kindergarten

Travis R. Dunlap and Linda Lemasters.

Outdoor learning is a trending topic in education research, and the benefits of outdoor classrooms are increasingly viewed as indispensable. While it would seem that children in the 21st century spend less time outdoors than previous generations, researchers have reinvigorated conversation on the importance of our children’s relationship to natural environments. Exposure to the natural world is recognized increasingly as an integral component of students’ development and education, and outdoor classrooms are an instrumental way to foster the reconnection of students with nature.

 

Outdoor learning provides very positive outcomes in the cognitive, physical, and social development of students. Researchers have demonstrated numerous advantages for students’ learning experiences in natural environments. For example, children who have contact with nature tend to score higher on tests involving concentration and self-discipline.[1] A reverse correlation also exists: the lack of a connection to the outside may exacerbate Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children.[2] Additionally, the physiological benefits of children’s involvement with nature cannot be ignored. For example, researchers have concluded that exposure to natural light reduces the risk of nearsightedness. Social and psychological benefits also are noted. As an example, when students play in a natural environment, their play is more imaginative, and these children show heightened language skills and greater ability for collaboration.[3] These are just a few of the many advantages of outdoor learning. Consequently, schools around the world are embracing the outdoor classroom model to maximize the related learning and behavior outcomes for students.

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[1] Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances E. Kuo, “Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings,” Environment and Behavior 33, no. 1 (2001): 54–77.

[2] Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Updated and Expanded edition (Chapel Hill, N.C: Algonquin Books, 2008), 48.

[3] Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong, Natural Learning: The Life of an Environmental Schoolyard. Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching. (Berkeley, CA: MIG Communications, 1997); Ingunn Fjortoft, “The Natural Environment as a Playground for Children: The Impact of Outdoor Play Activities in Pre-Primary School Children,” Early Childhood Education Journal 29, no. 2 (January 2001): 111–17.