Students who learn in nature show positive shifts in several specific academic skills:
- Perseverance is a necessary trait possessed by all successful students. It is about using failure as a positive learning experience empowering students to try again until the learning is attained.
- Problem solving
- Problem–solving is important to the learning process as it enables us to exert control over our environment.
- Critical thinking
- Critical thinking occurs when students analyze, evaluate or synthesize information to reach a conclusion.
- Leadership is about students taking an active role in their learning, advocating for themselves and creating an ownership over what they learn.
- The most important part of learning how to be part of a team is learning how to communicate effectively.
- Resilience is about being able to bounce back from disappointment or failure.
Researchers have even seen a positive correlation between nature-based instruction and standardized test scores and graduation rates. And while I’m not a fan of large, institutionalized standardized tests as a way of measuring student success, the fact they found a relationship between nature-based learning and student success in this area is fascinating.
Why? Why would students who learn in nature do better on structured, standardized assessments?
Interestingly, what they found is that nature may actually promote a number of other personal successes that can help lead to success in things like global assessments — things like:
- Increased attention levels
- Decreased stress levels
- Increased interest and enjoyment in learning
- Increased personal comfort (calmer, quieter, safer)
- Increased cooperative learning opportunities
- Increased student autonomy for things like beneficial play
I’m convinced. Learning in nature can be a powerful multiplier for student success.
We have intuitively known that being in nature can have wonderful side benefits to our physical and mental health. How often have we told our children to ‘go outside and get some fresh air’? I remember as a child being gone for hours on end exploring the local biking trails or playgrounds.
Even today, I can’t wait to get outside with my dog and go for a hike. Look how happy he is when we’re on an adventure.
And while we ‘know’ nature to be a good thing, we now have scientific evidence for the claims of it benefiting student learning.
Now we KNOW.
My next task is to find some studies to support my belief in chocolate ice cream being a magical cure for stress.