The Vital Role of Nature in Private Education

Posted in Blog, News

“Our surroundings provide a variety of cues that contribute not only to what we learn, but also to how we learn.”Patricia L. Linn, Adam Howard, Eric Miller Nature-based curriculums have been shown to improve the mental well-being of students and education professionals. Some of the highlights of this research include:
  1. Nature boosts performance in the classroom

    First off, nature has been shown to improve academic achievement in reading, writing, mathematics, and social studies. Nature has also been shown to enhance creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.

  2. Nature helps students better engage with learning.With unstructured time outdoors, students may also develop positive environmental attitudes. Hands-on, experiential learning has been linked to physical, emotional, and cognitive development.
  3. Nature builds better relationships through cooperative learning.

    Outdoor classrooms and nature-based opportunities for education mean students participate in active and experiential learning and promote a cooperative learning experience, proven strategies that improve academic learning.

  4. Nature promotes self control

    In greener learning environments, students who previously experienced difficulties in traditional classrooms are better able to remove themselves from conflicts and demonstrate better self-control

Creative Approaches to Outdoor Learning

Independent schools have been finding creative and innovative ways to incorporate nature-based learning into their classrooms in every grade, from pre-K through 12th. The opportunities to support STEM-based learning in an outdoor environment are almost limitless. Common examples of outdoor lessons include analyzing soil samples, growing gardens to learn about plant and water cycles, tracking rainfall, or learning about watershed and stormwater management. Here are a few of our favorite creative lesson plans being implemented at independent schools:

  • Students research which plants and herbs were used during colonial times and studied the ways they were used during that era. They plant a colonial herb garden containing many of the plants they researched.

  • Spanish teachers and students plant a salsa garden to grow the vegetables needed to make salsa during their cultural cooking classes.

  • Pre-K and lower schools foregoing traditional playground equipment and building “nature playscapes” that utilize few man-made components but rather arrange naturally occurring items such as stepping stones, fallen logs and rock gardens to stimulate nature-based imaginative play.

What is your independent school doing to incorporate nature’s benefits in the classroom?

As you consider the benefits presented here, it’s important to evaluate your offerings and make sure you are communicating them to parents and the community. We would never miss an opportunity to invest in classroom technology or a newly renovated auditorium, but many schools forget that the simple edible garden, living laboratory, or nature path can provide the most enrichment in a student’s day.

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