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.

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Resilience – A Necessary Part of Personal Success

October 10th is World Mental Health Day (sponsored by the World Health Organization – WHO). What a great day to talk about RESILIENCE and its importance in providing students with a pathway to success.

When I went through teacher training I learned about a number things like lesson construction, effective assessments and curriculum content. We didn’t spend a lot of time learning about student resilience — in fact, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even mentioned. And that’s probably because it wasn’t a concept being discussed among educators 30 years ago. I doubt that you could find one that incorporated it into the recipe for student success.

Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; personal toughness or the ability to bounce back.

What I’ve discovered over my career is that a student’s success is intimately linked to their ability to withstand disappointment, failure or setbacks. Their resilience is a critical part of their success story.

What About Resilience, Kindness and Courage?

I found the following list of personal traits a while ago while internet surfing at currclick.com.  The traits speak to the ‘human’ part of our existence:

What Standardized Tests Can't Measure

It’s an impressive list  — a list that speaks to some of the most important things we value about ourselves as compassionate and competent people — traits that we hope are imparted to our children.  As a parent, I want my own children to have these traits — to be proficient in these characteristics so that as adults they can thrive and be happy in our increasingly fast-paced and, some would say, depersonalized world.

Take another look at the list — a closer look — but this time tell me which traits are actually assessed in schools by having all students take a standardized assessment or exam.  I’ll wait — go back and take a look.

No … you didn’t go back and read them again … I’ll wait for you to finish.

If you couldn’t find a single trait that where all students are assessed in BC using a standardized assessment you’re correct …  NONE OF THEM.  Not ONE of these really important traits is evaluated using a provincial standardized assessment, or any standardized assessment for that matter.

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Courage – Hard to Measure But Still an Important Life Skill

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