Teachers Connect Children with Nature One Day a Week

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Outdoor Education Source Andy Manis For the State Journal
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What happened when 10 teachers in Wisconsin committed to take their elementary students outside one day a week to explore and play in nature?

The students studied the natural world, learned other lessons, and got physical activity outside.

Successful outdoor education!

“Playing outside is different socially, emotionally and physically than what happens in the classroom,” one of the teachers told the the Wisconsin State Journal.

Why Is Outdoor Education Good for Kids?

Outdoor teaching and recess during school can improve students’ learning, and much more.

It can boost physical, mental, and emotional health, particularly for Latino kids who don’t get as much time for physical activity during the school day.

It also can foster a desire to conserve and preserve green space and natural resources.

So How Did They Achieve it in Wisconsin?

The Madison Metropolitan School District teachers were part of an outdoor education study.

As part of the study, the teachers took their students to the Madison School Forest, a 400-plus acre State Natural Area with farmland, camping, and seven miles of trails for students, and all residents, to learn about and enjoy nature first hand.

The school forest movement began in Wisconsin in 1928. According to the Madison Board of Education 1960 objectives for the Madison School Forest, of great importance was the development of student’s attitudes towards conservation of natural resources, whether students become ecologists, doctors, businessmen, or teachers, because their attitudes may mean the difference between destruction and preservation. Learn more about the Madison School Forest.

“I just really like being outside in the nature and sometimes you can hear the trees whistle,” said Habiba Highsmith, a second-grader, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

The outdoor study ended with a grant-funded Environmental Education Summit through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Teachers’ Outdoor Environmental Education Fund.

The summit featured a hike and many outdoor activities, such as a scavenger hunt, rope tying, and birding at the Madison School Forest. The teachers developed the summit to learn from other teachers and to hear from students what it meant for them to learn outside once a week.

The teachers aim to continue the commitment through the next school year to both teach students about nature and to take lesson plans from other topics into nature.

Can you achieve this at your school? Contact your principal!

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By The Numbers By The Numbers

74

percent

of Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2 (vs. 45% of white kids).

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