“Children should learn through sensorial experiences and not through…the mere explanation of words”
Many educational theorists from time to time were interested in experiential education connecting children to nature, theory to practice, schooling to life, and school to home and community through practical learning in outdoor spaces.
Learning does not and cannot be confined to the four walls of a classroom. New age pedagogies are largely focused on experiential learning, relatability with the real world, and most of all meaning-making in the real-life scenario. ‘Outdoor Education’ therefore holds great relevance in stimulating and steering learning. Experiences, observations, and interactions with individuals, learning resources, natural surroundings, simulators, structures, and processes outside of a traditional classroom setting make an integral part of modern educational methodologies. Here are some of the reasons why outdoor education is important:
Physical activity and dynamism: Outdoor education encourages physical activity, which is essential for maintaining good physical, mental, and emotional health. Individuals who engage in outdoor activities are by and largely healthy, they display overall well-being.
Hands-on learning opportunities: When a student experiences a nature walk/ a field trip/ an industry tour/ a museum, an art gallery, or a laboratory, the hands-on experience enables them to explore, discover and learn about them through sensory inputs which are multi-dimensional. The learning in such a case is relatable, lasting, and contextual.
Multiple Intelligences at Play: In the outdoor learning model the student is not restricted to only auditory, and verbal-linguistic faculties. They would rather engage the subtler forms of intelligence which otherwise are not put to use. For instance, students will never get a better understanding of the vast space in the cosmos until they have watched the night sky live. Noting can match the experience of counting the stars forming a constellation in the sky, not even the audio-visual aids of modern times. A naturalist will learn by building a connection of concepts with the natural world outside the classroom and a Kinaesthetic Learner will learn by interacting with the subject of learning. A musical learner on the other hand will learn from the rhythm in nature and processes. It is interesting to note here that human beings are inherently attuned to learning through building relations, generating ideas, and creating solutions that are aimed at addressing real-world issues.
Builds problem-solving skills: Outdoor education helps students develop problem-solving skills as they learn to adapt to new environments and situations. Students are encouraged to think creatively and critically to address challenges that arise during outdoor activities. There is an ample number of teenagers and youth who are helping address the various challenges before Sustainable Development and the attainment of global goals. Adventure camps, Mountaineering, and Hiking bring out the best in the youth and create opportunities to develop physical, mental, and emotional endurance. Educators must integrate such experiences essentially into the annual academic calendar of the schools.
Fosters teamwork and collaboration: Outdoor education encourages teamwork and collaboration as students work together to accomplish tasks and overcome challenges. This helps build communication skills and promotes a sense of community and brings to the fore the leadership attributes of the children. Outdoor education enables the learners to experience a natural setup to interact, take initiative, step up to lead, offer help, or build dependability. Outdoor Education facilitates the development of social skills, effective communication, and much-desired collaboration skills for sustainable living in the context of SDG 2030.
Develops environmental awareness and commitment towards global goals: Outdoor education helps students develop a sense of appreciation and responsibility for the natural world. The natural setting offers opportunities to understand the vastness as well as the non-renewability of natural resources. By exploring and learning about the environment, students develop a deeper understanding of the impact of humans impact on the planet and the need to take action. Their commitment to helping sustainable development and attaining SDG 2030 gets renewed as a result.
Improves mental health: Outdoor education has been shown to improve mental health by reducing stress and anxiety and improving the release of the happy hormone Dopamine. Spending time in nature has a calming effect on the mind and can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety which are become the new normal in today’s world torn apart by the ill effects of technological disruptions.
Interdisciplinary Approach: Outdoor education build an outlook to view learning as an interdisciplinary pursuit rather than merely a process of gathering knowledge of the different subject matter in seclusion for the purpose of writing examinations and thereafter pursuing a profession with the aim of earning money to meet the needs of self and family.
Inspiration towards Holistic Living: Outdoor learning helps institutions and individuals to envisage the core purpose of human life ‘ Holistic Living’ rather than investing their life into the pursuit of material-oriented limited life goals
Vasudhaiv-Kutumbkum: Outdoor learning helps build connections with other beings, races, and regions. One gets to interact with and reflect upon the interdependency of all living and no living beings on each other. This provides the young generation an opportunity to identify their roles and responsibilities rather than counting life through their rights and gains.
In conclusion, I would like to state that encompassing outdoor education in the curriculum opens new vistas of exploration. It has the potential to provide numerous benefits for students and adults alike as It encourages physical activity, provides hands-on learning opportunities, builds problem-solving skills, fosters teamwork and collaboration, develops environmental awareness, and improves mental health in addition to building strong connections with surroundings. Outdoor learning provides the opportunity for learning about a diverse range of issues ranging from climate change to food security, diversity, discrimination, and the like.
In the context of all the benefits that outdoor education has to offer to supplement school education and complement the core objectives of the school curriculum, it is imperative for schools to provide due weightage to gardening, field trips, excursions, adventure camps, sporting activities, and community engagement.
Author – Soma Singh, Head of School, DPSG International, Ghaziabad