The Surprising Benefits of Teaching a Class Outside
Students need to be engaged with learning to absorb lessons in any meaningful way. Otherwise they can become distracted, disrupting everyone in the classroom and taking time away from instruction. Holding classes outside is a very successful way to foster engagement, proves study. The study further proves that learning outdoors is not just a fun, novel experience for kids, but also helps them focus once they return to the classroom.
According to lead researcher Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Kids can actually pay better attention in class after an outdoor lesson,” she says. “This is nice for teachers, because you don’t have to stop teaching and you still get that bump in attention.”
Results showed that when the students received outdoor biology lessons, they were significantly more engaged in their next instructional period on all measures than if they’d received biology lessons indoors. This held true for different teachers, different times of day, and different times of year.
Kuo understands that teachers may be skeptical—even one of the teachers in her study was doubtful before the experiment started. But, if a teacher can be open-minded, she says, they should at least try it out and see what happens. Kuo argues that the current educational movement to reduce student outdoor time—or enrichment programs like music, art, and theater—is wrong-headed.
In the meantime, it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t take much nature to make a difference.
“Kids are so starved for nature that you can take them out into a not-very-natural area, give them a lesson without really engaging much with nature, and even this pretty small, pathetic dose helps them function remarkably better,” says Kuo. “That feels like a big ‘Wow!’ to me.”
(Indebted to various sources)