“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky” - Margaret McMillan
I didn’t grow up in a house with much “screen time”. My sister and I were encouraged to be outdoors as much as possible, and we never had a video gaming system. We didn’t mind. We enjoyed being outside. At the time, I never considered the things I learned while playing in the woods or backyard. I was too busy building forts, collecting leaves, and making mud and stick “soup” for my parents. In retrospect, however, I can see that there was a lot of education happening in my backyard. Beyond the health benefits of daily exercise, we were learning valuable skills for life.
Children today spend on average 8-10 hours per day on electronic media screens. They are fixed to these screens and then lose out on the benefits of the library all around us. The library that this open World provides us with. Many researchers have claimed that hearing about things in a specific classroom environment is not as memorable as experiences something in its natural environment. Outdoor education contributes immensely to personal growth and social awareness which is the basic aim of successful schooling. It also develops skills for the actual life outside the walls of classroom. Along with that, there is a great deal of enjoyment, fun and amazement in the participation in outdoor activities. A glance at the autobiography of Helen Keller provides us with ample evidence of this. A deaf and blind child was educated with great success when her teacher Sullivan decided to take recourse to the great trove of educational treasure that we consider the outdoors to be.
Anyone who has seen the impact that learning and playing outdoors has on children, knows how powerful such experiences can be. Play is essential for children’s healthy development, which means it’s an essential part of every day. Learning outdoors, or ‘learning by doing’ creates lasting memories, helps build a greater awareness of the environment, provides more opportunities to think independently, and gets children feeling challenged and excited by learning. Children are more active when they play outdoors; it is essential for their healthy development and enjoyment of childhood.
Some Benefits of Outdoor School are:
- Better grades: students' cognitive abilities are better developed outside the classroom than in
- Better health: as young people spend less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow and we deny them access to a fundamental part of their humanity
- Decreased stress levels
- Increased motivation
- Better attitude towards environment
- Increased team work
- Enhance communication skills
- Community improvement
- Education is most effective when paired with experience
- Knowledge ought to be used to benefit others.
- Positive feelings and memories around school and the outdoors
It can be safely summarised that a holistic approach to education can never be considered to be complete until and unless we include the great library that exists outside our window. The rote learning that has come to mean schooling and thus education itself, won’t be enough to create the building blocks for the future society. What Mark Twain has aptly stated can be considered as a testimony to the same - "Never let your schooling stand in the way of your education."
~ Ms. Rajeshree Shihag is the Principal of The Fabindia School. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org