Can We Go Outside Today?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

It would be a typical day in late spring. I was in my classroom teaching science. The weather was warm, sunny and inviting. A hand would rise and the polite voice would ask, “Can we go outside for class today? Please, Mr. Eberwein.” Most sunny days the question repeated itself. What the students probably didn’t realize is that I wanted to be outside as well. However, my lessons just didn’t fit well with being outdoors so the answer was often a NO.

Prospect Lake Elementary School – Natural Playground

But, IS there some evidence that supports the idea that learning outside is beneficial — that being immersed in our natural surroundings is actually helpful while learning curriculum?

We have all heard anecdotal support for learning outside — that being in nature is calming and centering — things like going on nature hikes, being in outdoor classrooms, or taking field trips to the beach or old growth forests all are great experiences. But, I haven’t seen the empirical evidence to support that notion.

Now, three researchers have reviewed hundreds of other studies to find an answer to the question of whether being in nature makes a difference to learning.

The unequivocal answer is YES.

The review, published in February 2019 (Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship), shows that learning in nature can have profound effects on overall student achievement.

(More on Page 2)

The Adaptable Mind – Finding Success in a World Full of Change

I started this blog post way back in 2018 but didn’t finish it as I couldn’t seem to get ‘lift off’. I had written about 100 words and then stalled. I kept going back to it — I’d add a little and then delete it. I wasn’t going anywhere with it. I almost deleted the entire thing but decided to keep it in my ‘drafts’ and ignore it for awhile. There it sat for almost 2 1/2 years.

And then I opened it back up in early 2021.

A blog by George Couros had originally piqued my curiosity on the topic of The Adaptable Mind. I watched the video again and this time something clicked — funny how that works — a new context, a new time and you can sometimes find success when it eluded you in the past. An important life lesson in itself for all of us.

The 2021 context of living in a pandemic may have actually helped me personalize the ideas to make the topic my own.

As we work creatively to find new ways of making education in a pandemic more meaningful and relevant, the idea of focusing on flexible thinking makes perfect sense.

ADAPTABILITY will only make our students more successful during this wild time of uncertainty and change.

(More on Page 2)

Can Improving Executive Function Also Improve Reading?

This is the second blog post I’ve written about Executive Function (the first being Our Personal Super Power – Oct 19, 2020). In this post I want to focus on EF’s potential as a critical component of effective reading.

Reading is an incredibly complex skill. It is not an innate ability, but one that is learned over time and involves an intricate dance of neuronal activity between a number of brain areas.

In case you’re interested, here’s a picture that highlights the complexity — no need to memorize it — there won’t be a test later.

Areas of the Brain That are Connected to Reading

And because of this complexity, for students who struggle with reading there can be a multitude of reasons why that is the case.

(More on p.2)