Taking the Classroom Outdoors-My Developing Teaching Philosophy

As a person, nature and the outdoors are very important to me. I think part of this comes from growing up in a small, farming community. However, after I took an Outdoor Education class with Nick Forsberg, my ideas about the natural environment transformed greatly (in a good way!). It was in this class where I began to see connections between learning and nature. The theme of the class was “taking the classroom outdoors.” Essentially, the idea is that the things that can best be learned outside, should be. The reasoning behind this is that our society today is so disconnected with nature and therefore we are missing out on some great lifelong learning opportunities that are literally in our backyard.

At first, I was uncomfortable with this idea. I was thinking, “I already have to much to plan for, some many outcomes to meet, so manysafety rules to follow, so many adaptations to make, etc,etc, that I don’t have time to add this to the list.” However, the whole idea is to “start small.” The goal is to get your students comfortable in the natural environment. Maybe one day you take your students outside to read their silent reading books. Maybe you take your PE class outside more often. Maybe your class goes to the park and works on their sketches in art class. Once students become comfortable doing things like this, you begin to incorporate more of the outdoors into your lessons.

As long as you start, you are making a difference. Plus, the majority of students like doing things like this. They would rather write a poem outside sitting on the grass in the sun than sitting in the small, uncomfortable desk in their classroom. These are the types of things students remember from their school careers. Whether you like the idea or not, it is worth a try! You may be surprised at what you find (research shows you’ll have happier, more energetic and engaged, less troublesome students!)

I could go on and on about this! For those of you who are interested, I highly recommend you read “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. It really changed the way I see our society, the outdoors, teaching, and parenting.

Front Cover
Synopsis: “I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in—and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression.
ALSO, everyone should take a look at Richard Louv’s website!  Here he has information about himself and his books, shares stories and photos, adds blog posts, and has contact information!

5 thoughts on “Taking the Classroom Outdoors-My Developing Teaching Philosophy

  1. Thank you for posting on this subject! I worry a lot that students are becoming continually disconnected from the outdoors. As a teacher, I feel like the requirements of my profession, including the demands of the curriculum and the push from new, hot-off-the-press educational research, are keeping me inside using technology with kids far more often than they are drawing me out of doors to work with my students in the park. I’m curious as to what balance we should strike when it comes to having kids outside (in nature) learning vs. having kids inside learning with technology.
    In school I am noticing an increase in “plugged-in” learning and a significant decrease in outside classroom learning. I also personally believe, being that I’m a coach dealing with declining numbers of athletes and a suffering athletics program, that the culture of being plugged-in in school and at home is taking its toll on things like physical activity and engagement in extra-curricular programs (sports teams, arts programs, etc.). Of course there are certain kids that are not this way, but they seem to be exceptions to the rule. At least in my community, activities outside of technology seem to be faced with a sort of decline in participation.
    I am encouraged by your post to try to find ways to unplug my students for awhile in order to discover how we can learn outside. Again, thanks for sharing! I hope that as a society and as educators we find a way to balance outside with inside so that we can all be happy and healthy human beings.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this post! It is very important for us to realize that we need sometime out of this world that we have formed online and see what is waiting for us beyond that. We should also let the students learn by exploring this outside the four walls, which I feel is equslly important to make them efficient learners.

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