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.