> Nature Classroom
Take the classroom outside!
Going outside for some fresh air has long been a cure for all sorts of things: feeling sick or having a headache, feeling tired, feeling upset or angry, lack of concentration, needing to clear your head, feeling restless … the list goes on. However, getting some fresh air doesn’t need to be a cure just for adults; children benefit from being outdoors just as much as us oldies. In fact, research has shown that heading outdoors, and particularly contact with nature, can help improve a child’s mental and physical health AND improve their academic performance.
Recent research shows that spending time in nature offers a wealth of learning opportunities and improves creativity, imagination and academic achievements. Learning to discriminate, categorise and name different objects is a critical part of a child’s intellectual development. The rich diversity of nature provides extensive opportunities for children to acquire these abilities.
In short, providing learning opportunities both indoors and outdoors will give your kids more opportunities to fulfil their creative, imaginative and academic potential.
How To Do It
Take it outside
Just move normal indoor activities outside!
Scavenger hunt for colours, shapes, patterns and textures
Take children outside and look for different colours, shapes, patterns and textures in nature. Not only will children be exploring nature in the garden, they will also be developing classification, ordering and naming skills.
Scavenger hunt for creepy crawlies
Before heading outside explain to children that you will be looking for a range of different creepy crawlies. Make a list of things to look for such as an ant, spider, fly, bee, butterfly, snail, slug, worm, dragonfly, beetle or mosquito. You could also include birds on your list. Then head outside and work together to find all the things on your list. Remind children not to touch the bugs!
Take story time outside
Just reading stories in the garden will bring new life to well-read stories.
Smell the nature
Take a walk around the garden rubbing leaves and smelling them. What smells tasty and what smells nasty? Remember to wash your hands when you’re finished!
Make some music
Make instruments from seed pods, leaves, sticks and stones.
One of the best things you can give your children is time for unstructured or free play. Unstructured play helps children learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills. When play is child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. In contrast, play controlled by adults has rules and guidelines that children have to follow, which can result in some children losing some of the benefits of play, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills. Unstructured play in a natural environment allows children to engage in nature on their own terms, to find the things that interest them and to follow these interests, whether it’s insects, flowers, trees or stones.
- Record time in your nature classroom. Take photos of the younger children, and encourage older children to start a nature journal that they can add to each time they go outside.
- Bring nature indoors! Adding plants to your room is energising and calming. Children will also learn about the needs of plants and how to care for them.
- Safety concerns are often one of the barriers to getting kids outside. Work with children to establish some ground rules before heading outside – kids are more likely to follow rules they’ve helped to create!
What’s Our Impact?
Spend time in nature running, climbing trees and getting dirty, or sitting quietly in the natural world around you. Just spending one hour outdoors instead of in the classroom will save you both gas and electricity!
- CO2E (weekly) 5.57
- CO2E (annual) 230
- Black balloons (weekly) 69
- Black balloons (annual) 2773
Making direct contact with soil, whether through gardening, digging for worms or making mud pies has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning. Learn more at 30×30 Challenge.
Kids who spend time in nature aren’t just less stressed – they are more creative, have sharper memories and attention spans, and even have better social relationships. Learn more at 30×30 Challenge.
Humans evolved to respond to the daily rhythms of the sun. Natural light enhances our mental performance and darkness increases our desire to sleep. Light bulbs and electronic screens adversely affect melatonin production, a hormone that helps us sleep. Spending time in natural lights and switching off at night can help improve sleep. Learn more at 30×30 Challenge.