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The Benefits of Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education has always had to fight for its place in education, especially in times of financial cut backs and increased pressure on academic results in schools.

Beth Swait, Head of Outdoor Education at Bredon School in Gloucestershire, discusses how and why it is so important for children with additional learning needs to have access to the great outdoors.

In Outdoor Education, achievement is not assessed and it follows no set curriculum, so how do we prove its worth for our pupils, and why do Cavendish Schools make it such a key part of our pupils’ education?

The very fact that it is not assessed allows our pupils a chance to learn without the pressures of ‘failing.’ Achievement is personal; the value is in the experience.

Many pupils who struggle in the classroom often thrive in an outdoor environment; the move from visual and auditory to kinaesthetic learning is a refreshing change for all and notably of benefit to students with Special Educational Needs.

Physical activity is proven to help increase attention, reduce anxiety and develop co-ordination skills, however for many pupils the more traditional competitive team sports still put pressure on the pupils for results.

That said, Outdoor Education can also be a great boost to high achiever s in the classroom and to great sportsmen and women, and the experiences are very often some of the most memorable of a pupil’s schooling.

It encourages pupils to work independently, to use their initiative and exercise problem solving skills. It also demonstrates the benefits of teamwork, as pupils are able to support each other both physically and emotionally.

When a pupil achieves the challenge of reaching the top of a climbing wall or mountain, masters paddling a Kayak or faces their fears when caving, it helps them to realise what they can achieve when they push themselves.

Those running the activity can only encourage and support, the effort has to come from the pupil. Activities require perseverance and determination, sometimes enduring bad weather, but the experiences teach pupils what they are capable of, pushing them out of their comfort zones and into new environments.

Outdoor Education also develops the skill of assessing and managing risk. In a society regularly accused of being ‘risk averse’, Outdoor Education offers ‘Risk Benefit’ teaching pupils to make their own judgments; sometimes having to learn the hard way and learning to cope when things get tough –for example getting wet or cold, when not following instructions on what to wear!

‘Nature deficit disorder’ is another term used with the current younger generation, children who spend so little time outside playing freely, or using their imagination to learn about their local environment. It all has an impact on health and creativity.

Spending time outdoors enhances a pupils’ understanding of the environment, very often complementing learning in the classroom, and importantly instilling a duty of care for the local and wider surroundings.

“Such experiences help us to make sense of the world around us by making links between feelings and learning. They stay with us into adulthood and affect our behaviour, lifestyle and work. They influence our values and the decisions we make. They allow us to transfer learning experienced outside to the classroom and vice versa”.

Source: The Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres.
Further reading: http://ahoec.org/benefits-of-outdoor-learning/

3 June 2016

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