The best space to think is always outside
And that's why Outdoor Classroom Day is vital
How many times have you felt overwhelmed, or just a little out of control? When the pressure of work, or parenting, or just being is getting to you? Do you ever feel like you want the world to stop - just for one day, so that you can get on top of everything (or just to have a break?)
As adults, it’s hard enough to navigate the challenging world of responsibilities, to meet the needs of those around us. Increasingly, we’re seeing children feeling that same sense of overwhelm, be it through their school work, or outside interests - or just trying to balance them all. Add in the over-stimulation of devices (and peer pressure if they’re at school) and there’s a real disconnect between children and childhood.
At this time of year, of course, it’s exacerbated by exams for older children. And for our ten and 11 year olds, there’s the infamous and divisive SATS. For these kids, it’s a week of testing that schools, understandably, place enormous importance on. Regardless of how much reassuring that they do, the pressure for children to succeed is great. We see these children revising and whether indirectly or explicitly, soaking up the work and stress that comes with it for teachers and the wider school. It’s a big deal.
Despite the fact that we see regular reports on the importance of time outside, the social reality of our western lifestyle means that we aren’t easily able to let go of the schedules, the activities or the expectations. So if we aren’t willing to let go of these expectations, we must find a way to balance them, and temper the pressure with calm. For our children and our children’s mental health, we need to help them slow down, release the pressure and even to pause regularly.
Your granny would tell you (and you always knew she was right) that the easiest and most effective way to let off steam, chill out, or cheer yourself up, was to go for a walk, or just to get outside for some fresh air - simple stuff really. In an over-scheduled world, it now falls to us, as guardians of our children’s health and welfare, to do that for them. We must be granny. There’s enough science there, but the reality of today’s society makes it very difficult. Whether that’s because as parents we need to work one, two or three jobs to make ends meet, or whether we’re scared of not giving our children enough opportunities in life, we’re can’t let go and let them play as much as they need.
Getting over the barriers
The barriers to getting outside and enjoying wild time are as real as they are diverse, for every social group, in every location across the country (or world). There’s a myriad of reasons that your children might not get outside enough - The Wild Network has identified 11 barriers, from traffic to gangs, to busy lifestyles and more. It’s a complex and real challenge.
But if the barriers to getting outdoors are complex, the solution need not be. Open the doors and get them outdoors. This is why we love the idea behind Outdoor Classroom Day. The benefits of learning outside the classroom are well documented. On our website alone, we have hundreds listed. Just last year the results of the Natural Connections Demonstrations Project were released showing clear and decisive results in the four-year project of outdoor learning. Not only does outside learning improve results, it improves behaviour and wellbeing. That’s surely a no-brainer?
What can we do?
How can we encourage more schools to take seriously the opportunities that outside learning brings right across the curriculum and across all ages?
The answer is in these simple steps:
If you are parent - ask your child’s school to sign up - it's not too late
If you are a kid reading this - go nag your teacher and your parents
And with each and every child who has just one lesson outside, a movement gains momentum. When the children themselves see the benefits (and they will), you’ll find it a lot easier to get them to play outside. And then you won’t have to tell them to go and play out, or get some fresh air. They’ll know that’s what they need to do. And that’s a place of immense power and control that our children need today. Never mind for their mental health - it’s for ours too as parents.
Next week in the run up to Outdoor Classroom Day we’ll be sharing some ideas from the Wild Explorers App that can help you get even more from the day by taking Outdoor Classroom Day home with you. We’ll share loads of cool things to try on your way home or after school.
Don't forget - you get free access to Project Wild Thing if you sign your school or class up!