Outdoor Learning Project Reveals Children More Motivated to Learn When Outside

outdoor-learningChildren from 125 schools across the South West of England are happier, healthier and more motivated to learn thanks to a new project commissioned by Natural England that has turned the outdoors into a classroom and helped schools transform ways of teaching.

The findings have been released today by the Natural Connections Demonstration project, a 4-year initiative to help school children – particularly those from disadvantaged areas – experience the benefits of the natural environment by empowering teachers to use the outdoors to support everyday learning.

The project, which is funded by Natural England, Defra and Historic England and delivered by Plymouth University, is the largest project of its kind in England and has already helped more than 40,000 primary and secondary school pupils get out of their classrooms and into the outdoors – whether that’s a math lesson in a local park or drama out on the school field.

To read the full article, click here.

Young Children’s Preferences: What Stimulates Children’s Cognitive Play in Outdoor Preschools?

outdoor-play
Pinterest.com

A number of studies have identified childcare environments as significant resources for children’s development, learning through play, and contact with nature. However, there is a lack of knowledge about how, from a child’s perspective, specific outdoor physical environments in preschools stimulate children’s cognitive play.

Emphasizing on the value of listening to children, this study reports the perspectives of twenty-two 4- to 5-year-olds. The study context was an outdoor preschool with natural, mixed, and manufactured settings. A combination of photo preferences and semi-structured interviews was used to investigate children’s perception of preferred settings and cognitive plays.

The results identified that children mainly enjoyed functional and dramatic play. They mostly preferred mixed behavior settings that incorporated ranges of natural and manufactured elements. Compared to other settings, children found mixed settings provided the most opportunities for functional, constructive, dramatic, and game with rules play. The outcomes of this study have implications for the design of outdoor preschools, suggesting a balanced integration of nature with manufactured play features to enhance cognitive play experiences.

To read the full article, click here. 

 

Creating an Outdoor Classroom: Things to Consider

students-adults-working-to-create-outdoor-classroomStudents at Littlewood Elementary School in Gainesville, Florida are enjoying their new outdoor classroom, thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and a GreenWorks! grant from Project Learning Tree. The outdoor classroom includes seating for 24 students, as well as bird feeders, bird baths, and native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife.

The students were involved in many aspects of creating the outdoor classroom; from site planning and design, through installing bird feeders, planting native species, developing adopt-a-tree signs, and creating stepping stone mosaics.

Teachers are thrilled to have this outdoor space where students can be immersed in learning about nature. They observe bird behavior, calculate the dollar value of trees, measure plant growth, and collect data on seasonal changes.

To read the full article, click here.

Want Your Kids to Get Into Harvard? Tell ‘Em to Go Outside!

DF-41A growing body of evidence supports the belief that spending time in nature has positive impacts for youth.  Schools that have developed outdoor teaching areas and nature-based educational experiences report academic improvements among students in multiple subject areas. Researchers are finding that out-of-school learning experiences, which include non-formal educational settings like national parks, museums, and nature centers, contribute to student’s knowledge and interest in science and the environment.   

To read the full article click here.

Louv, Richard. 2014 Sept 22. Want Your Kids to Get into Harvard? Tell ‘Em To Go Outside. Children & Nature Network: The New Nature Movement. http://blog.childrenandnature.org/

 

Green Schools National Conference to be held in Virginia Beach, March 4-7, 2015

GSNC2015The Green Schools National Conference brings together experts and stakeholders to influence sustainability throughout K-12 schools and school districts.  Colleagues who share their passion and offer their own green schools experiences are put together in a true collaborative event with thought leaders and early adopters of green school best practices.   Attendees are passionate about transforming schools and the way they operate.  The annual conference is designed to allow attendees to learn about creative strategies for success and to take home real-life tools that can transform schools.

The 2015 conference will take place in Virginia Beach, VA, March 4-7, 2015. To learn more about and register for this conference visit: https://greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org/conference/

Connecting Kids to the Hogtown Creek Watershed in Gainesville, Florida

mary__kids_in_woodsInterfaceSouth and local partners, including the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Alachua County School District, the Gainesville Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs, and Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, received funding through this year’s Forest Service More Kids in the Woods (MKIW) cost share funding opportunity. The MKIW program supports activities and programs designed to spark curiosity about nature and promote learning through applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles.

Project partners will collaborate with Westwood middle school science teachers to conduct outdoor science learning activities and service learning projects within the nearby Hogtown Creek Watershed in Gainesville, FL. Partners will also organize a school camp out, participate in career day events and science fairs, and conduct a train-the-teacher workshop on outdoor learning concepts and techniques. Project successes, materials and information will be shared locally, regionally and nationally through our combined partner networks.

To learn more about the Forest Service’s More Kids in the Woods program and 2013 cost share funding recipients visit: 

www.fs.usda.gov/main/conservationeducation/about/education-themes/kids-in-woods  

www.fs.fed.us/news/2013/releases/05/more-kids-outdoors.shtml

 

 

Green Strides Webinar Series

The Green Strides Webinar Series acquaints school communities with the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy, including STEM, green careers, and civic engagement.

May 1, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Bringing Climate Change Home (USFS/PLT)

May 8, 2013, 1-2 p.m. School Sting: Impacts on Communities, Health and Environment (EPA)

May 8, 2013, 2-3 p.m. Drinking Water Best Management Practices for Schools (EPA)

May 15, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Engaging Your Community on Green Apple Day of Service

May 22, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Teacher Ranger Teacher (NPS)

May 29, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Authentic Student Voice in GreenSchools! (USFS/PLT)

June 12, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Summer Reading for Environmental Education (EDN)

Sign up for Green Strides Webinar Series email updates to receive information on future webinars. All times are given as Eastern Standard. View archived webinars here.

Let’s Zumba Outside for GreenSchools!

shapeimage_28Lantrip Elementary Environmental Science Magnet School, Jackson Middle School and Stephen F. Austin High School, all in close proximity of each other in Houston, Texas, are partnering with the the Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas – Latino Legacy and many others, to host a Zumbathon to support area students in creating a more healthy Houston through campus and community greening projects. The US Forest Service is helping sponsor the free Green Expo and Health Fair.

The “Let’s Zumba Outside for GreenSchools!” event will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013, from 9 am – 1 pm at Stephen F. Austin High School, located at 1700 Dumble, Houston TX.

Primary components of the event will center upon getting children and their families outside, campus and community greening, site planning for outdoor spaces, and promoting the important connection between health and nature.

To learn more about this family friendly event visit http://www.friendsnfgt.org/friendsnfgt/zumbaflyer.html.

 

WetlandsLIVE Classroom Resources

The WetlandsLIVE program provides students and teachers with a fun, informative and interactive way to discover wetlands. The program is geared toward students in 4th through 8th grades and provides classroom resources to get students engaged in their local wetlands, such as free lesson plans on wetland ecology, migration and more. The program also includes citizen science projects, free live webcasts, and video contests to promote interactive learning.

Join the next webcast, “Discover Wetlands”, on May 9th from 1 – 2 pm ET to find out what students from Alaska to Virginia are doing to learn about and help wetlands. A live webchat with wetland experts will follow the program from 2 – 3 pm ET. For more information or to register click here.

Natural Teachers: 10 Ways You Can Add Vitamin “N” to your Classroom and Beyond

By on March 23rd, 2013

Not long ago I met some dedicated young women who were doing their student teaching at an impressive nature-based preschool. They made it clear that they’d love to pursue careers at similar schools. But they were discouraged about the prospects. Despite growing demand from parents, the number of nature-based preschools remains relatively low.

“Is there a business school at your university?” I asked. Yes, they said. “Have the business school and your education school ever considered working together to prepare future teachers to start their own preschools?” The students looked at each other. They had never heard of such a thing. Nor had the director of the preschool.

Why not?

Probably because it doesn’t exist. Bringing more nature experiences to education will be a challenging task, and teachers can’t do it alone. Higher education, businesses, families and the whole community must become involved. That’s where the growing children and nature movement comes in. If, as an educator, you’d like to join or help lead the movement, here are a few ways to get started in your own school and beyond…click here