How our schools help children connect with nature
During times spent outdoors in my childhood, I had the opportunity and freedom to ‘be at one’ with nature, says Richard McLelland, Head of Early Years at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School in London. As adults, it is our responsibility to ensure the children in our care have this opportunity, too. With the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week being ‘Connect with Nature’, we delve a bit deeper into the topic.
When we, as educators, embrace a love of the outdoors and everything it has to teach us, we can instil the same spirit in the children we look after, fill them with lifelong memories, a natural curiosity and desire to discover things for themselves.
Outdoor learning is often best when it is open-ended. A walk through the park, or an explore of the garden, doesn’t need to be accompanied by a long list of objectives to be ticked off. Rather we should follow our children’s interests, see the world from their perspective, and be ready to answer a wealth of questions that may arise.
At Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, even though we are based in busy central London, students have opportunities for outdoor learning in a two-acre garden setting (unrivalled at any other preparatory school in London). Being on the doorstep of Hyde Park adds another incredible environment for our pupils to explore and learn in.
Outdoor learning is part of everyday life for our Early Years classes, come rain or shine, and during this academic year we are extending our outdoor learning programme throughout the school, so every child can benefit from the outdoor environments just beyond our doors.
If we shy away from so called ‘bad weather’, we run the risk of teaching children to do the same. They will therefore miss out on much of the world around them. Aristotle wrote that “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” If this quote isn’t enough to get your class out of the door on a cold or wet day, perhaps the words of Elsa from Frozen would be more successful? “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
So, put on those waterproofs and boots, get out in the rain offers and teach the children in your care how to interact with the world in a way that is not only beneficial for their education but for their wellbeing, as well.