The Benefits of Outdoor Learning

“Outdoors is what will save us.” 

Julia Marcus, infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School  (New York Times July 3, 2020)

At this moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health benefits of spending time outdoors are clear. 

But beyond COVID, there are many additional benefits:

Many studies have now proven that being outdoors improves emotional well being, focus and concentration, and flexibility of mind. Engaging in nature connection practices improves our understanding of the relationship between humans and the planet, and makes people more likely to take care of it. Learning outdoors allows children to experience real-world exploration of inquiry and application of concepts. 

– Ani Schaeffer, Vermont Wilderness School, A Proposal for Outdoor Education program at Marlboro Elementary School

Especially at the beginning of the school year, when many children will be emerging from up to six months of relative isolation, social and emotional learning will be paramount:

“We have found that the students’ shining moments were those that came from the experiences that support social and emotional learning (SEL).  The strong foundation of SEL that is built in the forest is constructed with authentic play in nature, experiences that build agency and resiliency, and opportunities to care for each other and the environment. The natural world truly becomes a co-teacher.”

– Amy Butler, North Branch Nature Center, Creating Community by Learning With Nature

For additional information, see this excellent list of resources for teaching outside.