When discussing Nature Pedagogy, it is useful to distinguish between learning about Nature, learning in Nature and learning with Nature.
It is well documented that being in a natural environment takes away at least 15% of people’s stress. Anyone learning actively outside, in a natural environment, will benefit from this 15% reduction in stress level.
What does this mean for us? Do we dare be creative and break away from the mold of traditional classrooms? Do we dare wonder if we can have some tables and chairs behind the auditorium for outdoor classrooms that could be booked in advance, with a whiteboard mounted on the outside wall of the school?
Walking out to the forest for us at GSIS takes about 5 minutes. After talking with a colleague from Dwight School in Seoul, I learned he takes his high school PE classes for fast-paced hikes as an occasional change from running and sometimes just for 10 minute “recharging,” when they need to refocus.
Another intriguing, learning in nature of the outdoor classroom idea could be as simple as bringing picnic mats for sitting in the forest for individual reading and journaling, group work, direct teaching, or whole class discussions. Pretty much any activity or content area can be learned while outdoors.
So, what about learning with nature? Last year my class joined a middle school math class that was hiking a short loop in the forest around the school. They used a tracking app on their devices to collect data regarding their journey. This data was the real life basis for explorations of their Grade level mathematical curriculum. Could ALL areas of learning; science, social studies, math, literacy, art, music, and PE be integrated with the natural environment that surrounds our school? Our only limit is ourselves: why do we find ourselves so confined? Let’s unleash our imaginations! See what we can discover, feel, smell, taste and observe in nature.