‘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
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Keywords:Children's rights, Early learning, Play-based learning, Nature, Outdoor learning
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.
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