Outdoor learning at ARU

Lucie Hamilton

Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Education and Social Care
Course: Early Childhood Studies
Category: Education

18 May 2017

I love being outdoors. It feels fresh, energising and invigorating. Imagine what you feel like when you have been holed up indoors for days.

Sunshine through trees onto a park, with a person doing a handstand

Cabin fever, people term it. Well, children are no different. They feel closed in and trapped when they have been inside for so long and this is why being outside is imperative to a child’s upbringing. Some more deprived areas really struggle with this concept. People who live in high-rise flats, or built-up areas, can be without outdoor spaces to play in for miles. This is why green spaces and parks, etc, are so important to try and preserve – we need to make that outdoor space available to those who may not have a garden or access to anything green.

A compilation of four photos: A tree in autumn, a river, a view of branches, a view of a park

When I was in my first year at ARU, I compiled some basic research as part of a project. I found that the majority of the parents I spoke with took into consideration the outside space available when looking for childcare for their children. If the space wasn’t adequate, or the provider didn’t allocate plenty of outdoor play time, that parent was put off of attending that nursery.

So what benefit does a child gain from outdoor play? Well, there are four vehicles through which children learn: movement, play, talk and sensory. Being outdoors provides the perfect platform to explore all of these learning vehicles. Children are given the freedom to discover and devour the world around them, providing countless opportunities for learning. The Good Childhood Report (2014) states that 'children who are regularly active have a higher wellbeing'. Team this with the health benefits of being outdoors and I am struggling to see why anyone would not want their child to be outside.

Lucie climbing a tree

Also in my first year, we held one of our sessions in the woodland which adjoins ARU. The purpose was to walk through the woodland and, without talking to one another, really take in our surroundings. Children are very literal with their thinking. Their minds are not consumed with bills and mortgages and deadlines and social media – they simply see the world as it is presented to them. So we were asked to walk in silence and explore our surroundings, listening – really listening – to the sounds around us. Leaves crunching, birds chirping, traffic humming… it was amazing.

We also had the chance to climb some trees (how could I resist!) and collect materials to create with, back in the classroom. I chose to collect leaves and then write a poem, using the leaves as a border. What do you think?

An example of writing about trees, on a back ground of leaves

This was an incredibly valuable part of my learning at ARU and I would highly recommend any adult to try this sensory walk idea. Clear your mind, stay silent and just… listen. The world is a beautiful place when we actually stop and look at it.

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