Let’s Go Outside
In 2012, a report by the National Trust, called Natural Childhood, laid out not only the problems that children’s lack of experience of nature creates, but also the positive benefits that allowing children to spend time in nature without adult supervision can bring. Here we summarise the key points of the report and give some helpful tips on how to engage your class with the environment.
The most obvious benefit is of course improved health; the bigger space that a child has to play in, the more likely they are to run around, helping to reduce the risk of childhood obesity. But it is not just physical fitness that is positively affected by spending time in nature, it also promotes better mental health, reducing stress and anger, leading to a calmer and more peaceful classroom.
Studies have shown that children who are exposed to nature:
Have longer and more focused concentration spans and greater self-discipline
Have improved awareness, reasoning and observational skills
Are better at reading, writing, maths, science and social studies
Work more comfortably and contribute well when working in a team
See an improvement in overall behaviour
The report states:
‘We can observe strong evidence that even the lightest contact with nature makes for stronger communities; studies have shown that even in cases where the only variable is the view of green space from a window, incidences of crime are reduced by as much as 50%. […] This makes intuitive sense. In a world where children play in their local green space and are welcomed and expected to do so, those children become part of the community.’
In order to get children to care about the future preservation of our natural landscapes, animals and plants, we must first get them to engage with them. Sir David Attenborough says; ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced’. What is equally important is to encourage children to follow careers that will help future generations to protect the environment. As Richard Louv, writer of Last Child in the Woods summarises: ‘If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered species: the child in nature’.
So, how can you help your class to engage with nature?
The National Trust has a fantastic app which has 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾. Why not download it and help your class tick some activities off the list?
Create a reward scheme for children engaging with nature – who can take the most photos of wild animals? Who can collect (and identify) the most amount of leaves?
Go on a class walk in the countryside, go pond-dipping at your local water park, visit a local country park.
Create engaging, hands-on lessons where pupils can learn to identify different animals, birds, and trees (download our KS1 ‘Nature Match’ activity here).
It’s better for adults too!
It’s not only the children who can benefit from spending time in nature: sometimes a child’s view of their environment can influence us adults to see things differently too. Nature writer, Robert Macfarlane, explains how his children have influenced him:
‘Children are generally uninterested in grandeur, and rapt by the miniature and the close at hand […] From them – among countless other lessons – I have learnt that magnitude of scale is no metric by which to judge natural spectacle, and that wonder is now, more than ever, an essential survival skill’
Robert Macfarlane – Landmarks
Let us know the best ways that you have helped your class to engage with nature in the comments section below.
Did you know that we stock nature themed reward stickers? Click here to check them out.