What exactly is outdoor learning?
“Simply put, it is the provision of engaging, tactile activities and learning opportunities in the natural world beyond that of the confines of the traditional classroom,” says Australian International School’s (AIS) Acting Head of Outdoor Education Catherine Siew.
Research shows that children who play outside are more active and develop gross motor skills faster. “In my opinion,” says Catherine, “the return to nature-based programs enhance children’s sense of belonging in our world in a deep and profound way.” When coupled with initiatives like school garden projects, nature-based play creates a generation of children with healthier minds, bodies, hearts and souls, she adds.
In fact, AIS recently launched its new Outdoor Education Program, which provides students from Prep to Year 12 with outdoor learning opportunities. “Students develop key skills such as teamwork, leadership and resilience, while broadening their awareness and appreciation of the natural environment,” says Catherine.
The aim of this new programme? “For children to enjoy their outdoor experiences, whether it’s a short day trip in the younger years of the school, or an extended 10-day camp in secondary school,” says Catherine. A good example of this is the recent Year 4 trip to Gunung Ledang in Johor, Malaysia, where the 9- and 10-year-old students went river tracing, waterfall and jungle hiking, firelighting and more.
The trip took children outside of their comfort zone and they encountered plenty of physical, mental and social challenges.
One highlight of the trip, says Catherine, was the waterfall walk. It became a natural water park for the children – they thoroughly enjoyed swimming and sliding in the rapids and cheering each other on. But, they also noticed that there was rubbish on the side of the river, and began questioning why it was there and what impact it had on the environment.
“Seeing issues like this on a small scale encourages them to think about wider problems of pollution and environmental hazards and how these may be harming the world as a whole,” says Catherine.
Visit the AIS website to learn more about the Outdoor Education Program or to book a personal tour of the school.
From The Finder Kids, Vol. 25, November 2018
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