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Rain or shine, students should learn outside

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learning outdoors

Hope Davidson, Reporter

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Outdoor school. The pinnacle of a sixth grader’s school year. Three days away from school, camping, spending time in nature, hanging out with your friends- does it get any better than that? When we think of school, our brain is flooded with memories of sitting in a classroom for hours upon hours and only going outside for lunchtime or to use the restroom, but educators are looking to change the status quo by incorporating more outdoor learning time into students’ schooling.   

Fiddleheads Forest School, a preschool in the Seattle Area, focuses their entire curriculum on nature and the outdoors. The students spend their entire day outside, rain or shine, with the only indoor facility being an emergency weather shelter. The program promotes a “choose-your-own-adventure” style of learning, encouraging the preschoolers to explore their surroundings and ask questions.

While an all outdoor education is not commonly seen in the United States, schools are still making an effort to get their students outside more. A school in Quechee, Vermont has a “Forest Monday” where the students spend the entire school day outdoors and are asked to observe the world around them. There are not many rules in place because teachers want the students to explore with little limitation, and learn from their mistakes.

With the growing popularity of new technology, kids are turning away from nature and instead spending more time indoors and in front of screens. Outdoor programs justify their actions with studies which show spending more time outdoors at a young age can lower the risk of obesity and myopia, improve balance, calm highly energetic children, and reduce stress. Minnucci, a teacher in Quechee, believes students need to learn “there’s more to life than acing academics,” and those who aren’t academically skilled need to understand they have other talents. Minnucci and other teachers expresses concern that important aspects such as cognitive skills, health, and happiness are often overlooked in the system’s focus on the academics.

Outdoor education isn’t all sunshine and smiles; obstacles arise when trying to grow an outdoor education. Schools with an all outdoor campus-such as Fiddleheads- face difficulties because a majority of states will not license a school without an indoor facility, and unlicensed schools are restricted to being open for four hours per day. Another concern is the expenses for the parents of the children who attend such schools- clothing which accommodate to the child’s needs in cold or rainy weather can be expensive. In the outdoors, children are more likely to damage clothing and other belongings, mounting onto the price. Critics question the safety of these programs, saying young children can harm themselves more easily outdoors.

As a student, I would love to see more outdoor education. In the current system, we are confined to a classroom, sat behind a desk, taught in the same routine way day to day,  and told to study and get good grades, but rarely do we get the opportunity to have connections with nature. Outdoor education would provide ways for students to see how what they’re learning in the classroom applies to the real world. Also, it would show kids that there’s more things in life to enjoy than school and academics- something I wish I had learned earlier. Spending time outdoors is proven to have physical and emotional benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety- something students have a lot of. Mental health is often overlooked in schools, and implementing outdoor education into every school would show students that their health is just as important as doing well in school.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Rain or shine, students should learn outside”

  1. Trenton Kozel on March 22nd, 2018 8:10 AM

    While I agree more time outdoors would be a good thing, there needs to be a balance. Public education is government-funded, and thus should be aimed at developing the minds of students to be informed, educated citizens in our democracy. Too much time outdoors may be a waste of government spending as it strays from this focus.

    [Reply]

  2. Savannah Blouin on March 22nd, 2018 8:14 AM

    I completely agree! I would love to see more education be provided outside. Great article Hope.

    [Reply]

  3. Avi Patel on March 22nd, 2018 8:31 AM

    Those kids in that picture seem like they are learning hard, I support this idea.

    [Reply]

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