As you can see, we’re excited about how outdoor education affects kids. One of the coolest things we see develop in our young learners is true collaboration. These kids are different from each other: they come from different cultures, different home lives, and go to different schools. They have different learning styles and different belief systems.
Then they come to camp and we give them challenges to face together. It’s always inspiring to see how kids will work together, to collaborate, to include each other in the process. It gives us hope for the future! The research backs up our experience; outdoor play and education enhances all aspects of social and emotional development. Kids learn to listen to each other, to speak up for each other, and to co-create as part of a community of kids.
What’s the end result? Kids who are more confident, competent, and kind.
How Outdoor Education Benefits Society
We have a growing need for creative problem solvers, but research shows that with its focus on standardization, the educational system of the past 20 years has greatly decreased children’s capacity for creative thinking. For those who get to experience it, outdoor education helps remedy that problem.
Our instructors have seen (and research confirms) that the more time kids have to work together with loose structure and LOTS of loose parts (sticks, blocks, trees, vines, mud) the more creative and collaborative their play gets. Fallen trees become spaceships, submarines, and castles while acres of wild grass become villages with mayors, guards, business people … and pranksters. Leaves become currency, social debates are had, and elections held. From physics to social studies, the lessons learned are a natural result of the play.
Lightly structured, guided play leads to amazing questions, and a desire to learn more. It also tends to lead kids to looking for ways to be useful, to give back to each other, and to the greater community. What happens then is amazing to watch as their creativity meshes with their drive. Kids volunteer to dig up blackberries and other invasive species, build bridges, and tend to patches of wild flowers. Even in this work, however, the kids bring an element of play and creativing thinking as blackberry thickets become dragons trapping gentle giants or devouring the village. Rakes, shovels, and clippers, of course, transform into swords and lances. This ethos of caring for others continues into adolescents and adulthood. Now teenagers, the first cohorts in our programs volunteer for community service projects like litter clean-ups, food drives, and park beautification.
[quote author=”-Albert Einstein” source=””]