What the Outdoors Can Teach Your Child

The Western International School of Shanghai (WISS)
October 21, 2019

As educators, every day, we observe how hard students work to achieve good results. However, it still surprises us how fast they learn, gain new skills, and apply the knowledge they acquired!

Nowadays, education is undergoing some important changes, leaving passive teaching methods, based on dry theory, behind. In a global society that continually moves forward, education must also be redefined. Many new approaches to teaching and learning have appeared over the years, and some of them have proved to be very efficient and productive.

These new methods challenge the traditional concepts of teaching and learning that most of us have. One of these innovative approaches is Forest School and outdoor learning.

Olaya Garcia is a WISS Pre-Nursery teacher who has introduced this approach to our school through the Forest School Activity for our Pre-Nursery students. In Olaya’s words, “Exploring in the outdoors, children build their gross and fine motor skills. They develop movement control, flexibility, balancing skills, and keep fit and healthy.”

Thanks to this new initiative to use the outdoors for learning, students develop new skills and gain valuable knowledge that will last a lifetime. This approach to learning brings a long list of benefits for students. Here you will find our selection of five of them, based on Olaya’s thoughts, experiences, and the changes she has observed in the development of children participating in the Forest School Activity at WISS.

Children form positive relationships with other children and adults
The outdoor education approach promotes team-work, sharing, and turn-taking. It supports children to interact with others, to negotiate, and to play cooperatively.

Students begin to develop personal values
As Olaya notices every week, in Forest School, children find their own learning interests as well as raise their self-confidence and sense of achievement. Important values such as empathy are practiced through peer collaboration.

Children connect to themselves and the environment
In the words of Ms. Garcia, outdoor education encourages curiosity and a love of nature. It recognizes the importance of children finding their identity through links with the natural environment. In Forest Schools, children are encouraged to admire the beauty of nature and respect flora and fauna. Children who take part in outdoor activities produce “feel good” hormones which helps them release stress and feel more relaxed.

Children drive their learning process
When children are given the freedom to lead their own inquiries outdoors, they are more likely to be engaged and to show enthusiasm about learning and discovering. They rely on their resilience, problem-solving, and critical thinking to solve the challenges they set for themselves. In this way, students are in control of their own learning.

Kids develop life skills and become more creative and curious
Nature is full of sensory information that sparks children´s curiosity. Learning in the outdoors provides opportunities for real-life, hands-on experiences in which children develop their creativity by exploring with all their senses. Natural open-ended materials are accessible to support their symbolic play; for instance, a stick could be a wand or a stick horse.

Promoting outdoor learning activities is a fantastic way to encourage students to learn, to acquire new skills and knowledge, to explore and to be in contact with the natural environment, and to feel more confident.

The Western International School of Shanghai (WISS)

The Western International School of Shanghai (WISS) is a forward-looking school that has been inspiring young people from around the world since 2006. Our diverse and compassionate community…

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