Education Strategy 3: Outdoor & Community-Based Learning

EDUCATION – Schools, where children spend a significant amount of their time, have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect children with nature. Contact with nature has proven educational and developmental benefits. Historically, schools have planned field trips and arranged for school outreach programs, and schoolyards are often the nearest green spaces in neighborhood. Increasingly across Ohio, schools are being used as Community Learning Centers, making their facilities accessible to the community beyond the school day, seven days a week. This makes them even more valuable as “nearby nature” locations. With 55% of children under the age of six in child care centers, pre-schools and child care centers also play an important role in the effort to reconnect children with nature:

Strategy #3: Encourage teaching and learning in outdoors and community-based settings.

The Environmental Literacy Plan contains objectives to assure that students can

  • Access and assess information
  • Identify, research, analyze and address environmental challenges
  • Understand key environmental literacy concepts in science courses

While these objectives could be accomplished inside the classroom, the learning experience would be much more powerful when done in a real-world, community-based setting. Outdoor settings also increase the potential for physical activity, thereby improving student health. Community-based experiences increase the potential for additional mentoring, as well as recognition of and appreciation for helpful community services which are available without commensurate increases in cost for schools, since much of the programming is funded by the community organizations providing the services and not through public funds or tuition.

In the case of pre-school and early childhood settings, it may be necessary to educate parents about the importance of unstructured outdoor play to a child’s cognitive development. According to Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, FAAP, speaking on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Parents receive message from a variety of sources stating that good parents actively build every skill and aptitude their child might need from the earliest ages, and that play may, in fact, be a waste of time. ”