Learning In Nature

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.  


9 thoughts on “Learning In Nature

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  1. Love the idea of learning in nature. In busy cities it’s easy to forget to take a moment and just be outside. This is important for our students to remember. Science especially should be able to find a ton of ways to incorporate nature into lessons. In primary school go see the organisms you are studying (butterflies, bees, flowers) in Secondary take a pond sample and look at it under the microscope. Or better yet, I wonder if you could take a microscope for a hike!

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  2. One thing I missed from KIS was the hillside next to the school; it was a great place to take the class for a short walk and talk. Here at Cheongna Dalton School, we have some options that I haven’t explored because I’m not a regular classroom teacher now, but I’d like to recommend the teachers to try. Our field is easily available for a tour around and over to the stable to see the horses. We could cross the road and wander in the vacant lot on the way over to the new sports complex. And there is a newly created park within a seven minute walk from campus, so during a regular high school class of 75 minutes, it is doable. We could use the courtyard as a classroom with some simple chairs and a movable whiteboard (which we have available). Students like to get outside and it is a nice change of pace. Thanks for this post; now the possibilities are flowing.

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  3. I not only like the idea of getting Ss out of the classroom to “experience” things while they learn, but I love the infusion of technology to help collect and track data along the journey. There are cheap fixtures that can attach to mobile device cameras these days to help turn them into a microscope. These would be great when looking at organic samples around in your walks.


  4. Our early childhood center excels at learning in nature! We (my grade 3 class) are buddies with the 4 year old class, and we recently met with them in an outdoor garden space. It was amazing how excited my kids were to find snails and slugs; how they wanted me to look up what hummingbird eggs look like because they think they found one; and how they just generally enjoyed being outside. I love how my 3 year old daughter and classmates treasure the sticks and shells they find at recess. Learning and fun doesn’t have to be high-tech (or any tech)! So I agree – we should all look for more opportunities to learn in (and with) nature.


  5. There are many writing opportunities to have when you come in from exploring the nature all around us. I’m going out tomorrow with my students to look for signs of spring. Also for math to find patterns in nature or to create patterns with different items found in nature (leaves, rocks, shells, sticks, etc). The possibilities are endless. Science observations with different seasonal changes can inspire our future minds. The possibilities are endless~ This is a great reminder that I need to take advantage of the outdoors more. The micro dust has put a damper on being outside though 😦

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  6. This is a great post!
    I love this idea of learning in nature and think the answer is YES we can integrate everything in this fashion. I’m curious: what kind of data did they collect on their devices? And then what did they do with it?
    Have you read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv? http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/ I read it and got to hear him speak a few years ago and it got me thinking. I hope to see more from you on this topic. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thank Kristin! Yes, I have read Richard Louv. I love this quote from him, “An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”

      My Kinder kids collected data on altitude as we climbed up and down the hills with the middle school students. We graphed it and analyzed it with using our numeracy measurement vocabulary such as bigger, higher, and lower. Thank you for your reply. I will write more soon!


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