Research Focus: LOtC and the challenging future

Date Posted: 25/07/2017

STO looks at a new study from Planet Ark that suggests that teaching children outside the classroom can give them the skills they need to tackle the challenges of the future. 

Earlier this month the not-for-profit environmental organisation Planet Ark released a report on the skills the next generation of children will need to deal with the future.

The study also looked at the ways learning outside the classroom could contribute to, and build on, these skills.

Here STO looks at the report in more detail…

Methodology

Researchers used information from the United Nations to identify the challenges that the next generation of children will face in their adult lives.

Weather patterns that threaten food, a growing population, and competition for resources are all predicted to become real concerns that today’s children will have to faces as grown-ups.

The researchers also carried out a survey of 200 teachers to establish the character traits and skills that children will need to cope with such challenges. 

Finally, the research team conducted a cross-sectional analysis of peer reviewed research into the ways in which learning outside the classroom could help children develop those traits. 

Key skills

Of the 200 teachers surveyed, 60 per cent identified the skills of problem solving, critical thinking, grit and emotional intelligence as being key to children’s ability to confront the problems of the future. 

Only four per cent of teachers identified STEM skills as one of the top three skills required. 

Key skills and LOtC

The Planet Ark report suggested that all the key skills identified above could be improved in some way through learning outside the classroom activity. 

In explaining how LOtC could positively impact children’s critical thinking and problem solving skills, the Planet Art research team referenced serval psychological studies. 

They said, “Researchers have found a distinct link between time spent outdoors and the development of cognitive ability.

“In Britain, after a period of outdoor lessons, researchers found students performed better in reading, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies and showed greater motivation for studying science. 

“In a German study, students aged nine to eleven who had gone outside the classroom to learn about amphibians, performed significantly better in achievement tests. Students were also more interested, had a higher sense of wellbeing and felt less anger, anxiety, and boredom doing the lesson. 

“Californian students who had studied outdoor Science improved their test scores by 27 per cent. A Spanish study of students who had green spaces around their school found that over a 12-month period the students’ “memory improved and their inattentiveness reduced”.”

Commenting on the link between outdoor education and emotional intelligence, they said; “Outdoor learning often involves collaboration with other students and this gives them the opportunity to practise and develop their emotional intelligence.

“Even when students are not required to work in a group, research shows that spending school time outdoors increases social interaction. Children still learn how to build relationships, trust each other, gauge others’ emotional reactions to different situations and modify their behaviour, whether they are reading out dialogue in a play or doing an art assignment using found objects.”

On the topic of grit, the researchers said; “Research suggests that time in nature helps children develop grit, and especially resilience. Studies have shown a correlation between connection to nature and psychological resilience, leading to recommendations that schools create experiences where children can develop a sense of being part of the natural world.”

To find out more about Project Ark’s report visit www.apo.org.au.

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