We took part in the Big Garden Bird watch in January, as no doubt many other parents and schools did.
This is a national survey run by the RSPB to help count and understand bird life better; both the good and bad news, and consequently how to support the perpetuation of species.
As well as this bird charity, there are a variety of organisations supporting our wild life, from our tiniest creatures (for example Buglife, Froglife) to larger wildlife (World Wildlife Fund), trees (Woodland Trust) and land conservation (Natural England and local Conservation Trusts). And these organisations offer many good resources for learners of all ages, through online activities and ideas for more practical pursuits. So it’s worth exploring their sites from time to time.
Learning activities outdoors are invaluable for connecting children to the outside world, something many are becoming alienated from as they become tied to indoor pursuits like gaming. Apart from understanding of nature, these activities also have added benefits to children’s personal development.
Increasing evidence supports the idea that being outdoors and particularly in a natural environment has an important impact on children’s mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing. It helps control the rising problem with obesity and helps counteract what one author describes as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ where children are so removed from nature and have such a lack of understand, even the tiniest harmless bug can create fear.
But as well as those benefits it also develops many personal skills children will use in a wider context that we might not at first be aware of. Skills like self-confidence, independence and courage. Observation, memory, analysis. A knowledge and awareness of their own strengths and capabilities. And an opportunity to shine at practical things where more academic activities sometimes seem like insurmountable challenges to those children who are not that way inclined.
So while the children and young people are learning about nature and the world they live in and depend upon, they are also developing in ways that are going to benefit their wider learning skills.
A recent article in the Guardian suggested a variety of ways those more urban learners can pursue outdoor activities and study and, although aimed at schools, provides useful ideas for home educating families to experiment with too. So even if you haven’t access to rural spaces you can still pursue an outdoor approach.
Outdoor learning has many benefits to children both personally and educationally so making it a regular part of your child’s learning life will be valuable whatever other approaches you may take.