It’s back-to-school time. Time to think about learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. In this day and age of high stakes standardized testing and mass media, the outdoor classroom has fallen prey to “core” academics. Unfortunately, this editing of the school day has not actually increased academic performance as predicted. In fact, a new report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has found that “time spent outdoors both during school and at home helps children become high-performance learners and score higher on standard tests.”
NWF’s report Back to School: Back Outside explains:
American parents, educators and school administrators are faced with an unprecedented new educational challenge that is so broad, subtle and pervasive, that it is nearly invisible. They must wake up to the cold reality that American children are now spending an average of seven hours and 38 minutes per day (53 hours per week) indoors, using electronic media such as television and video games. Regular outdoor time, especially time in natural surroundings, has become just minutes per day and is verging on becoming a thing of the past. This “indoor childhood” trend is an immense and unnecessary drain on our children’s long term physical, emotional and educational development.
I am happy to report that my own children are not following this trend. At school, they have two recesses, PE time, as well as outside gardening and science periods. At home, we spend a lot of time hiking and exploring the amazing terrain where we live in. This weekend, my daughter and I will hit the trail backpacking in a wilderness area. We won’t see the indoors for three days.
The NWF report continues:
Today’s indoor children are less physically fit, less able to concentrate and are less able to relate to peers and adults than any previous generation of children. And, they are less able to be effective in the classroom. One partial solution is to give them more time outdoors: playing and learning. The goal for the NWF Be Out There campaign is for every child to have at least a daily “Green Hour” of outdoor time.
A Green Hour is an excellent idea. It is important we successfully advocate for our children in order that outdoor time is considered a core aspect of the curriculum. The outdoor classroom should be part of every child’s day.