‘I'd rather learn outside because nature can teach you so many more things than being inside’: Outdoor learning experiences of young children and educators


Abstract views: 1038 / PDF downloads: 668

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.202343281

Keywords:

Children's rights, Early learning, Play-based learning, Nature, Outdoor learning

Abstract

Outdoor and nature-based activities promote better health and academic outcomes for children. The school context represents a critical opportunity to support increased outdoor time. Yet, outdoor learning (OL) is not being implemented consistently across school contexts, therefore, many students do not receive the opportunity to participate. This study was designed to support increased uptake of OL and explores young children’s perspectives of learning within an outdoor context and explores how educators support OL opportunities within an early learning context. This research places a focus on children’s voices in order to emphasize their perspective of the learning experience and to highlight experiential child-led processes within OL. We collected semi-structured interviews with students, their parents and school staff who were involved in OL. An exploratory thematic analysis was applied using QSR NVivo. Findings that emerged were organized under two main themes: Nature as the teacher and Child-led exploration of nature. Nature as a teacher contained three subthemes: 1) Seasonal change influencing inquiry, 2) Engagement with other living things in nature and 3) Dimensionality of the outdoors as an element that enhances learning – experiential immersive learning. Child-led exploration of nature contained one subtheme: Learning driven by play. These findings can be used to advocate for increased uptake of OL in education and to provide guidance to educators regarding how to include OL within their practice to enhance equitable access for children.

References

Ayotte-Beaudet, J.-P., Vinuesa, V., Turcotte, S. et Berrigan, F. (2022). Pratiques enseignantes en plein air en contexte scolaire au Québec: Au-delà de la pandémie de COVID-19. Université de Sherbrooke.

Bamberger, M., Rao, V., & Woolcock, M. (2010). Using mixed methods in monitoring and evaluation: Experiences from international development In A. Tashakkori, & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Sage handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research (2nd ed., pp. 613-641). SAGE. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781506335193.n24

Bang, M. (2004). When Sophie gets angry - really, really angry. Scholastic Inc.

Barrable, A., Booth, D., Adams, D., & Beauchamp, G. (2021). Enhancing nature connection and positive affect in children through mindful engagement with natural environments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(9), 4785. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094785

Bauer, M. S., Damschroder, L., Hagedorn, H., Smith, J., & Kilbourne, A. M. (2015). An introduction to implementation science for the non-specialist. BMC psychology, 3(1), 1-12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-015-0089-9

Baum, F. (2019). Governing for health. Oxford University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190258948.001.0001

Becker, C., Lauterbach, G., Spengler, S., Dettweiler, U., & Mess, F. (2017). Effects of regular classes in outdoor education settings: A systematic review on students' learning, social and health dimensions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 485. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14050485

Beery, T.H., & Jorgensen, K.A. (2018). Children in nature: Sensory engagement and the experience of biodiversity. Environmental Education Research, 24(1), 13-25. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2016.1250149

Bento, G., & Dias, G. (2017). The importance of outdoor play for young children's healthy development. Porto Biomedical Journal, 2(5), 157–160. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbj.2017.03.003

Blodgett, A.T., Schinke, R.J., Smith, B., Peltier, D., & Pheasant, C. (2011). In indigenous words: Exploring vignettes as a narrative strategy for presenting the research voices of aboriginal community members. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6),522–533. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800411409885

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2014). What can “thematic analysis” offer health and wellbeing researchers?. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 9(1), 26152. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3402/qhw.v9.26152

Browne, L.P., Garst, B.A., & Bialeschki, M.D. (2011). Engaging youth in environmental sustainability: Impact of the Camp 2 Grow program. J Park Recreat Adm, 29(3), 70-85.

Brussoni, M., Gibbons, R., Gray, C., Ishikawa, T., Sandseter, E. B. H., Bienenstock, A., Chabot, G., Fuselli, P., Herrington, S.,Janssen, I., Pickett, W., Power, M.,Stanger, N., Sampson, M., & Tremblay, M. (2015). What is the relationship between risky outdoor play and health in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 6423–6454. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120606423

Buckley, B. (2018). Bringing outdoor therapies into mainstream mental health. Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 119. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00119

Capaldi, C. A., Passmore, H.-A., Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M., & Dopko, R. L. (2015). Flourishing in nature: A review of the benefits of connecting with nature and its application as a wellbeing intervention. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(4), 1-16. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v5i4.449

Checkoway, B. (2011). What is youth participation?. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(2), 340-345. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.09.017

Davis, J. (2014). Towards a further understanding of what Indigenous people have always known: Storytelling as the basis of good pedagogy. First Nations Perspectives, 6(1), 83-96.

Derr, V., Chawla, L., & Mintzer, M. (2018). Placemaking with children and youth: Participatory practices for planning sustainable communities. New Village Press.

Ernst, J. (2017). Exploring young children’s and parents’ preferences for outdoor play settings and affinity toward nature. International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, 5(2), 30-45.

Ernst, J., & Burcak, F. (2019). Young children’s contributions to sustainability: The influence of nature play on curiosity, executive function skills, creative thinking, and resilience. Sustainability, 11(15), 4212. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154212

Fjørtoft, I. (2001). The natural environment as a playground for children: The impact of outdoor play activities in pre-primary school children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29, 111–117. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1012576913074

Gray, C., Gibbons, R., Larouche, R., Sandseter, E. B., Bienenstock, A., Brussoni, M., Chabot, G., Herrington, S., Janssen, I., Pickett, W., Power, M., Stanger, N., Sampson, M., & Tremblay, M. S. (2015). What is the relationship between outdoor time and physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and physical fitness in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 6455–6474. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120606455

Greene, J. C., Benjamin, L., & Goodyear, L. (2001). The merits of mixing methods in evaluation. Evaluation, 7(1), 25-44. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/13563890122209504

Green, M. C. (2004). Storytelling in teaching. The Association for Psychological Science Observer, 17(4), 37–39.

Halsall, T., Daley, M., Hawke, L., & Henderson, J. (2021). Exploring peer support services for youth experiencing multiple health and social challenges in Canada: A hybrid realist-participatory evaluation model. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 20, 1-13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406921995680

Halsall, T., Donison, L., Zeni, M., de Lannoy, L., Buxton, R., Sundar, P. & Matheson, K. (forthcoming). “I feel like nature's healing, it just brings me joy”: Students and educators experiences of wellbeing within outdoor learning. Adventure education and Outdoor Learning,

Halsall, T., & Forneris, T. (2020). Examining outdoor recreation as an approach to promote youth development and environmental activism. In R. Millington & S. Darnell (Eds.), Sport, development and environmental sustainability (pp. 148-162). Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351128629-10

Harper, N. J., & Obee, P. (2021). Articulating outdoor risky play in early childhood education: Voices of forest and nature school practitioners. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 21(2), 184-194. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2020.1784766

Harwood, D., & Collier, D. R. (2017). The matter of the stick: Storying/(re)storying children’s literacies in the forest. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(3), 336–352. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798417712340

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., & Eyer, D. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards: How our children really learn – and why they need to play more and memorize less. Rodale Books.

Hunter, J., Syversen, K. B., Graves, C., & Bodensteiner, A. (2019). Balancing Outdoor Learning and Play: Adult Perspectives of Teacher Roles and Practice in an Outdoor Classroom. International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, 7(2), 34-50.

Hussein, H. (2017). Sensory affordances in outdoor play environment towards well-being of special schooled children. Intelligent Buildings International, 9(3), 148–163. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17508975.2015.1015945

Jordan, C., & Chawla, L. (2022). A coordinated research agenda for nature-based learning. In R. Jucker, & J. von Au (Eds.), High-Quality Outdoor Learning (pp. 29-46). Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-04108-2_2

Julien, M., Wright, B., & Zinni, D.M. (2010). Stories from the circle: Leadership lessons learned from aboriginal leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(1), 114–26. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.10.009

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169–182. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2

Kellert, S. R. (2002). Experiencing nature: Affective, cognitive, and evaluative development. In P.H. Kahn, Jr & S.R Kellert (Eds), Children and nature: Psychological, sociocultural, and evolutionary investigations (pp.117-151). The MIT Press.

Kemple, K. M., Oh, J., Kenney, E., & Smith-Bonahue, T. (2016). The power of outdoor play and play in natural environments. Childhood Education, 92(6), 446–454. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00094056.2016.1251793

Khan, M., Bell, S., & Wood, J. (2021). Place, pedagogy and play : Participation, design and research with children. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429023477

Kilkelly, U., Lynch, H., Moore, A., O’Connell, A., & Field, S.C. (2016). Children and the outdoors: Contact with the outdoors and natural heritage among children aged 5 to 12: Current trends, benefits, barriers and research requirements. Heritage Council. https://www.heritagecouncil.ie/content/files/children_%20outdoors_commissioned_report_26mb.pdf

Kovach, M.E. (2010). Indigenous methodologies: Characteristics, conversations, and contexts. University of Toronto Press.

Kyle, A. D., Balmes, J. R., Buffler, P. A., & Lee, P. R. (2006). Integrating research, surveillance, and practice in environmental public health tracking. Environmental health perspectives, 114(7), 980-984. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.8735

Kuo, M., Barnes, M., & Jordan, C. (2019). Do experiences with nature promote learning? Converging evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 305–305. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00305

Lawrence, R. L., & Paige, D. S. (2016). What our ancestors knew: Teaching and learning through storytelling. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 149(Spring), 63-72. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.20177

Lawson Foundation. (2020). Increasing outdoor play in early learning and child care in the context of covid-19.

Lee, E-Y., de Lannoy, L., de Barros, I., Bentsen, P., Brussoni, M., & Fiskum, T. (2022). Play, learn, and teach outdoors - network (PLaTO‑Net): Terminology, taxonomy, and ontology. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 19(6), 1-20. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-022-01403-z

Libby, M., Rosen, M., & Sedonaen, M. (2005). Building youth–adult partnerships for community change: Lessons from the youth leadership institute. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(1), 111-120. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.20037

Lumber, R., Richardson, M., & Sheffield, D. (2017). Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. PLoS One, 12(5), e0177186. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177186

Maynard, T. (2007). Outdoor play and learning. Education 3-13, 35(4), 305–307. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03004270701602400

Malone, K., & Tranter, P. J. (2003). School grounds as sites for learning: Making the most of environmental opportunities. Environmental Education Research, 9(3), 283–303. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504620303459

Mann, J., Gray, T., Truong, S., Sahlberg, P., Bentsen, P., Passy, R., Ho, S., Ward, K., & Cowper, R. (2021). A systematic review protocol to identify the key benefits and efficacy of nature-based learning in outdoor educational settings. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1199. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031199

Marchant, E., Todd, C., Cooksey, R., Dredge, S., Jones, H., Reynolds, D., Stratton, G., Dwyer, R., Lyons, R. & Brophy, S. (2019). Curriculum based outdoor learning for children aged 9-11: A qualitative analysis of pupils’ and teachers’ views. PLoS One, 14(5), e0212242. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0212242

Merewether, J. (2015). Young children's perspectives of outdoor learning spaces: What matters?. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 40(1), 99-108. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/183693911504000113

McCormick, R. (2017). Does access to green space impact the mental well-being of children: A systematic review. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 37, 3–7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2017.08.027

McNamara, L., London, R., Ramstetter, C., Baines, E., Beresin, A., Claasson, J., Doyle, W., Hyndman, B., Jarrett, O., Massey, W., & Rhea, D. (2020). School re-opening? Make sure children have time for daily recess. Global Recess Alliance. https://globalrecessalliance.org/recess-statement/

Mitra, R., Pelopidas, C., Propa, F., & Yutiga, P. (2020). Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) in school communities: Results from the pilot programming in Toronto. https://transformlab.torontomu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/OPAL-Report-Final-2020-Revised2.pdf

Morgan, D. L. (2007). Paradigms lost and pragmatism regained: Methodological implications of combining qualitative and quantitative methods. Journal of mixed methods research, 1(1), 48-76. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2345678906292462

Murnikov, V., & Kask, K. (2021). Recall accuracy in children: Age vs. conceptual thinking. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 686904. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.686904

Norwood, M.F., Lakhani, A., Fullagar, S., Maujean, A., Downes, M., Byrne, J., Stewart, A., Barber, B., & Kendall, E. (2019). A narrative and systematic review of the behavioural, cognitive and emotional effects of passive nature exposure on young people: Evidence for prescribing change. Landscape and Urban Planning, 189, 71–79. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2019.04.007

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014). How does learning happen? Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years. Queens Printer for Ontario. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/howlearninghappens.pdf

Oberle, E., Zeni, M., Munday, F., & Brussoni, M. (2021). Support factors and barriers for outdoor learning in elementary schools: A systemic perspective. American Journal of Health Education, 52(5), 251–265. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19325037.2021.1955232

ParticipACTION. (2022). ParticipACTION report card on physical activity for children and youth. https://www.participaction.com/the-science/children-and-youth-report-card/

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Sage.

Patton, M. Q. (2011). Developmental evaluation: Applying complexity concepts to enhance innovation and use. Guilford Press.

Perry, C. K., Ackert, E., Sallis, J. F., Glanz, K., & Saelens, B. E. (2016). Places where children are active: A longitudinal examination of children’s physical activity. Preventive Medicine, 93, 88–95. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.09.015

Phenice, L., & Griffore, R. (2003). Young children and the natural world. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 4(2), 167–171. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2003.4.2.6

Phillips, L. (2013). Storytelling as pedagogy. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 21(2), ii+.

Preuß, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Marquez, S., Cirach, M., Dadvand, P., Triguero-Mas, M., Gidlow, C., Grazuleviciene, R., Kruize, H., & Zijlema, W. (2019). Low childhood nature exposure is associated with worse mental health in adulthood. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(10), 1809. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101809

Prins, J., van der Wilt, F., van der Veen, C., & Hovinga, D. (2022). Nature play in early childhood education: A systematic review and meta ethnography of qualitative research. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 1–15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.995164

Pritchard, A., Richardson, M., Sheffield, D., & McEwan, K. (2020). The relationship between nature connectedness and eudaimonic well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies, 21, 1145–1167. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00118-6

Ramsden, R., Han, C. S., Mount, D., Loebach, J., Cox, A., Herrington, S., Bundy, A., Fyfe-Johnson, A., Sandseter, E. B. H., Stone, M., Tremblay, M. S., & Brussoni, M. (2022). An intervention to increase outdoor play in early childhood education centers (PROmoting Early Childhood Outside): Protocol for a pilot wait-list control cluster randomized trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 11(7), e38365. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2196/38365

Reis, G., Ng-A-Fook, N., & Glithero, L. (2015). Provoking ecojustice—taking citizen science and youth activism beyond the school curriculum. In M.Muller & D,Tippins (Eds.), Ecojustice, citizen science and youth activism (pp. 39–61). Springer International Publishing. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-11608-2_4

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009). Affordances for risky play in preschool: The importance of features in the play environment. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5), 439–446. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-009-0307-2

Sandseter, E. B. H., & Kennair, L. E. O. (2011). Children’s risky play from an evolutionary perspective: The anti-phobic effects of thrilling experiences. Evolutionary Psychology, 9(2). 257-284 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/147470491100900212

Sahrakhiz, S., Harring, M., & Witte, D., M. (2018). Learning opportunities in the outdoor school–empirical findings on outdoor school in Germany from the children’s perspective. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 18(3), 214-226. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2017.1413404

Tremblay, M. S., Gray, C., Babcock, S., Barnes, J., Bradstreet, C. C., Carr, D., Chabot, G., Choquette, L., Chorney, D., Collyer, C., Herrington, S., Janson, K., Janssen, I., Larouche, R., Pickett, W., Power, M., Sandseter, E. B. H., Simon, B., & Brussoni, M. (2015). Position statement on active outdoor play. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 6475–6505. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120606475

UNICEF (2014). Convention on the rights of the child: Rights under the convention on child. https://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30177.html

United Nation. (1989) United Nations convention on the rights of the child. https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/convention-rights-child

Ulset, V., Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., Bekkhus, M., & Borge, A.I.H. (2017). Time spent outdoors during preschool: Links with children’s cognitive and behavioral development. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1(52),69–80. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.05.007

Vanaken, G.-J., & Danckaerts, M. (2018). Impact of green space exposure on children’s and adolescents’ mental health: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(12), 2668. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122668

Zamani, Z. (2017). Young children’s preferences: What stimulates children’s cognitive play in outdoor preschools?. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 15(3), 256–274. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1476718X15616831

Zeldin, S., Krauss, S. E., Collura, J., Lucchesi, M., & Sulaiman, A. H. (2014). Conceptualizing and measuring youth–adult partnership in community programs: A cross national study. American journal of community psychology, 54 (3-4), 337-347. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-014-9676-9

Zelenski, J.M., Dopko, R.L., & Capaldi, C.A. (2015). Cooperation is in our nature: Nature exposure may promote cooperative and environmentally sustainable behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 42, 24–31. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.01.005

Ziegler, F., Mitchell, P., & Currie, G. (2005). How does narrative cue children's perspective taking?. Developmental Psychology, 41(1), 115-123. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.41.1.115

Downloads

Published

2023-10-10

How to Cite

Donison, L., & Halsall, T. (2023). ‘I’d rather learn outside because nature can teach you so many more things than being inside’: Outdoor learning experiences of young children and educators. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 4(3), 373–390. https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.202343281

Funding data