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8 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Teaching Outdoors

Lessons are now moving from enclosed and often unstimulating classrooms to the great outdoors. The benefits of making this small change to the education system are numerous, our Online Media Intern talks you through them. 

1. Academic performance

Improves academic performance: in many subjects including science, language and maths as seen in studies in the US (American Institutes for Research, 2005).

2. Stress relief

The study of eco-therapy (treatment programmes designed to improve mental health and physical wellbeing through outdoor activities in nature) is consistently increasing, with results showing greener spaces reduce stress and depression levels in adults and children alike. Wells and Evans (2003) found nature is a buffer of life stress to rural children in mutliple locations through increasing their global self-worth and decreasing physcological distress.

Lee Haywood 3. Creative & cognitive function

 Bell and Dyment, 2006 compares studies of children in nature and class rooms show more cooperation and creativity when they are solving problems in nature.

4. Fitness

A report by Bell and Dyment for the Grounds For Action campaign found exposure to a natural environment not only increases physical activity but a wider variety of play opportunites for children. For instance introduction of trees, shrubs and vines would make them want to explore the play area, as well as increasing imaginative play with movable nature, i.e sticks, rocks, leaves etc. Increased environemntal awareness and knowldge of nutrition was observed when food gardens were encorporated into green play areas.

5. Improves eyesight

Eyesight is improved by spending less time looking at screens and more at the natural beauty around you. A study by the American Academy of Opthalmology found when children look at screens for prolonged periods of time, they blink less, causing itchy and tired eyes. Exposure to nature restores natural blinking patterns as it doesn't require strained, direct attention, thus giving a chance for the eyes to recover.

flickr | Rozzie Sanders

6. Improves Social interaction

 We know that chimps require social interactions like grooming to encourage brain development for their survival, the same is in human children. Burdette and Whitaker (2005) show children are more able to get along in the outdoors due to the social interactions they encounter (e.g. creativity, friendship, joys of movement) allowing their brain development. The issue it highlights is that children are spending less time playing outdoors, which reduces their brain development and increases the current child obesity trend. 

7. Improves self-discipline

Access to green spaces enhances peace and self-discipline within inner city youth, as urban environments are less stimulating than green environments, allowing them to divert attention away from school and other things that give them stability.  The results of the study by Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan (2001) even displays how green environments keep girls in particular, further away from academic achievement, juvenile delinquency and even teenage pregnancy.


8. Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms

Exposure to nature was seen to reduce symptoms of ADD in young people, even in those as young as five years old. This happens through Kaplan's Attention Restoration Theory, whereby exposing children to nature enables an effortless engagement with their naturally bright and interesting surroundings, in comparison to stifling and monotonous urban environments which require directed attention. Overexposure to urban environments leads to the fatigue of directed attention thus leading to less rational and impulsive behaviour. Because nature doesn't require direct attention to be engaged with, their direct attention capacity can be restored whilst in natural surroundings.

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By Meike Simms - Online Media Intern 

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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