It's no secret that our children are becoming increasingly distant from the natural world. With a greater dependence on technology, virtual relationships, and indoor activities, many children rarely experience the outdoors.
Even in school, time spent outdoors on field trips and during recess is shrinking across the country. But children are meant to explore, learn, and discover in the natural world.
That's why an outdoor school might be the best option for your middle school-aged children. Not only will your children receive a quality education, but they will spend time outdoors daily. They will build a lasting connection with the natural world.
There are many reasons why an outdoor school program may be one of the best opportunities for your kids. Keep reading to discover what outdoor learning looks like, as well as the most important benefits of outdoor school.
What Is Outdoor School?
Outdoor education takes on many different forms depending on what program you are considering. At Voyagers Community School, that means students in grades 6-8 spend at least 10 hours a week outdoors. The remaining time is spent in the classroom to continue the learning that began outside.
We rely on a scientific, hands-on approach to learning that boosts student motivation, active thinking, and confidence. Learning outside the classroom allows students to engage all their senses.
It also allows them to have new experiences, try new activities, and discover their true potential. Here's how outdoor school can benefit your children.
Develop an Appreciation for Nature
Children today are growing more and more distant from nature. In fact, many kids spend twice as much time playing video games as they do playing outside.
Today's youth don't know what it means to climb a tree, catch a fish, or hike through the woods. They've lost their connection to nature.
An outdoor school program may be the perfect solution to the indoor epidemic. When your child spends time outdoors during school hours, they will be free to explore, discover the natural world, and fall in love with nature.
As a result, they may be less inclined to play inside after school and more motivated to get back outdoors. This is known as the "follow-up" effect that is commonly associated with outdoor recreation or education programs.
Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
Spending time outside encourages a healthy lifestyle. When children play and learn outdoors, they will naturally get more exercise, reducing the risk of childhood obesity.
On top of that, the fresh air, sunshine, and interaction with the elements boost mental and physical health. Studies have shown that those who spend more time outside in green spaces experience less stress. They also experience a reduced risk of type II diabetes, along with other conditions.
Time outdoors also exposes us to natural light. This is crucial to developing a healthy circadian rhythm. More time outside correlates with longer, higher quality sleep at night. Better sleep leads to healthier kids, emotionally and physically.
Learning and playing outdoors throughout the week is vital. This is especially true for teenagers, who are experiencing more stress and anxiety disorders than ever before. Nature helps children and adults alike feel calmer. This leads to clear thinking and healthy interactions with others.
Improve Academic Performance
Many parents wonder if time outside distracts students from learning. Actually, it's the opposite. Spending time in nature, whether playing by the creek or conducting a formal lesson outdoors, boosts academic performance.
For one, test scores improve for students who learn outdoors. But self-esteem, conflict resolution, and motivation in the classroom all improve over those students who learn exclusively indoors.
Exposure to natural, green areas daily also improves children's ability to focus. This leads to less restlessness inside the classroom, improving the learning experience as well as behavior.
Discover New Interests
Much of our student's time in the woods revolves around learning traditional content, such as mathematics, history, science, and other subjects. But they also devote plenty of time to trying new things, such as fishing, boating, orienteering, and hiking.
They engage with nature in a way that most kids are no longer doing. This leads to children discovering new hobbies and passions that will instill a lifetime of outdoor exploration inside each of them.
Learn New Skills
When children spend time outside each day, playing and learning, they quickly gain new skills, both practical and behavioral.
One day, children might learn how to use a compass. Another day, they might be planting a garden, learning how to grow fruits and vegetables, or distinguishing between different plant species.
When allowed to explore outdoors, children develop a sense of independence. They learn how to problem solve, how to think critically, and how to collaborate with others towards a common goal.
All of these skills work together to provide education for the whole child, not just the academic aspect.
Fosters Environmental Stewardship
At Voyagers Community School, we are aware that everything we do has an environmental impact. As a result, we strive to operate as sustainably as possible. Our goal is to take care of the environment and limit our footprint. We do this by choosing eco-friendly products and supplies. We also participate in green energy programs to power our facilities.
And as our students spend time each day in nature, they learn that everything they do affects the environment as well. As they become participants with nature, they discover how our environment is changing every day.
So while they are developing an appreciation for nature, they are also learning to be stewards of our planet.
Apply For Our Outdoor School
It's hard to argue with the benefits that outdoor school provides, particularly for young teenagers. At this age, social pressure and anxiety often distract students from learning. But spending time in nature's classroom can motivate young learners like never before.
Are you interested in enrolling your middle school children in our outdoor school? You can inquire today about the upcoming school year to see if our program is right for you.