Trekking through the woods, the journey is as much about the learning as it is the destination.
Children through their deep immersion in the experiences of the forest, make profound connections they are making with the natural world or the social and physical skills they are constantly developing.
“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”
-Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth
What Can We Learn in the Outdoors in Nature?
- Knowledge, understanding and skills across the areas of learning;
- Different ways of communicating, using language and literacy skills;
- Develop physical strength and confidence in movement;
- Spatial awareness;
- Gross / fine / imaginative motor skill development;
- Navigating natural obstacles such as branches on balance logs, cable traverses, hammock nets, wooden bridges.
- Experience a sense of freedom, exhilaration and self expression;
- Develop curiosity;
- Support natural motivation;
- Develop tactile / sensory awareness;
- Develop an understanding of the effect of actions upon people and environments;
- An understanding of natural resources and phenomena.
Sparking Engagement: By modeling enthusiasm for nature play, the educator encourages children who might be nervous or new to outdoor play.
The very skilled educator knows when to offer an insight, a question or materials to support a child’s learning, but more importantly knows when to get out of the way.
—Jon Cree, UK Forest School Association
Outdoors I felt as if I was offered the opportunity to reconfigure my role as an educator as I slipped ‘seamlessly’ from playmate to researcher, at times actively participating in explorations, while at other times maintaining a distance to listen and observe, and at other times stepping in as site and risk manager.
An educator leads (invites, nudges, pulls) children beyond their comfort zones into deeper thinking and understanding, and follows their interests.
Believing in the importance of the outdoors—and the joy!—of not simply permitting but encouraging myself and children to get dirty in order to experience a sense of connection to nature, and to fall down in order to experience a sense of accomplishment as you get back up, and gain trust in abilities, was so empowering to experience and observe.
Children in natural learning environments fascinate me! Educators too are pulled into nature and we immediately find ourselves entangled in a child’s real-time experience as we co-manage and navigate risk. Nature provides them with opportunities to experience risk –seen as an integral part of learning and healthy development.
Children were also engaged in Place-based learning [a type of learning I am still learning more about], which is firmly rooted in the act of connecting children to a particular place through direct experiential contact. The ability to know a place intimately and to return to a natural space again and again, provides children with a sense of security and familiarity.
I Love to see inspirational photos of nature play and learning places.
Pictured Above: “Journey Sticks”–
I have never heard of journey sticks in my previous studies, but apparently they’ve been around for a very long time. A journey stick is essentially a memento of a nature walk, featuring items collected whilst on the walk; these might be things like leaves, twigs, flowers, feathers or anything else natural that you find along the way. It involves hunting, collecting, comparing with other children, as well as the opportunity to get creative with the stick design. Potential topics for conversation: different items with a variety of shapes, colours, textures and sizes.
‘Outdoor space, even if it is only a small area, allows and encourages children to relive their experiences through their most natural channel: movement’
-Exercising Muscles and Minds, Marjorie Ouvr
Great Article to Read: