Ian Wainwright from the Field Studies Council (FSC) explains why outdoor education will support children’s recovery from the pandemic.
There’s no denying that the last 18 months have been an unsettling time for us all, not least our children who have faced endless change and disruption to their education. However with a relatively normal return to school this autumn, we are looking forward to making up for lost time.
We have been delighted to see the return of school pupils to our UK outdoor education centres. The buzz and excitement as they arrive is a moment to be treasured. It’s one, we’re certain, every teacher wishes they could bottle. For that magic moment is the point at which life-lasting memories are made.
We know, for many children, a residential is their first experience of being away from home. They’re in charge of brushing their own teeth and making sure they have clean socks on, but they’re also exposed to different ways of learning.
Taking pupils away from the classroom and immersing them in nature helps them to develop new skills, gain confidence and become more engaged in the subjects they are learning about. Not only this, spending time outdoors impacts positively on their health and mental wellbeing and helps foster new and stronger relationships with teachers and peers. It’s why outdoor learning has a crucial role in helping our children recover, not just academically, but mentally, socially and physically, from the pandemic and the restrictions placed upon them.
During lockdown schools had little choice but to switch to learning online. It meant children were fixed to a screen for large chunks of their daily routine and whilst I would not doubt the role that technology has played in helping us survive the pandemic, there is a need to redress the balance.
Thankfully, there’s not a single subject which cannot be taught outdoors. Seeing and experiencing helps consolidate learning and hands-on learning helps children make sense of a subject as well as rediscover their enthusiasm.
The social disruption of the pandemic can also be remedied with outdoor education trips. Exploring new environments together away from school and sharing spaces at mealtimes allows time for children and their teachers to get to know each other better.
I don’t need to labour the argument about the positive physical and mental benefits associated with spending time outdoors but perhaps what is less talked about is how valuable time spent in nature will be in helping shape the skills of future generations.
Immersing regularly in active play outside in nature helps youngsters appreciate and care for our environment. It enables them to adopt valuable problem-solving skills and make sense of messy data – the very skills and attributes necessary for children to gain future careers and support the UK’s own growing green agenda. In essence, outdoor education will support not only our children’s recovery from the pandemic but, longer term, also the UK’s recovery.