The Wonder of Learning through the Environment

Posted on June 17, 2010

Sharing some photos and the quotes Kirsty Lilijegren promised to go up onto the website.
Children’s Right to Nature
Kirsty Liljegren
Quotes and useful websites June 2010

“Children who regularly play in natural environments have cognitive development two years more advanced then those who don’t. Primary school children who undergo nature based programs show improvements to their basic concentration, communication with peers and cognitive ability”.
(D Macken, Financial Review, 2010

“The Schoolyard Habitat Movement”
“Biophilia,” which asserts “a human need, fired in the crucible of evolutionary development, for deep and intimate association with the natural environment” (Kellert, 1993, p. 21).
According to this hypothesis, we are
“hard-wired” to affiliate with natural environments, needing such affiliation in the same way we need contact with other people.
Biophilia: The Love of Outdoors
Children experience the natural environment differently than adults. Adults typically see nature as background for what they are doing.
Children experience nature, not as background for events, but rather as a stimulator and experiential component of their activities.
Randy White & Vicki L. Stoecklin, 1997

When children do not play in natural habitats, they tend not to know about the plants and animals that live there.
(Nabhan & St. Antoine, 1993).

“Children are multisensory, physical beings. The younger the child the more the child learns through sensory and physical activity. The variety and richness of natural settings–the wind, the sky, the changing clouds, the moving animals, the cycling plants, the hardness of rocks, the flowingness of water, the varieties of colours and sounds, the wide range of permitted behaviours (shouting and running and climbing)–all contribute to physical, cognitive, and emotional development.
Natural areas offer children benefits beyond the cognitive.
Social-emotional development is well served by natural areas”.

“The over emphasis on assessment and reaching benchmarks is a drive that often shuts down authentic learning for life. It sucks the creativity, student directedness and enthusiasm for the cooperative collaborative unfolding of curiosity and intuitive learning. Accountability and results are seldom able to measure the social, emotional or moral growth of students and yet surely these are equally as important. The giving of awards for academic and sporting success does likewise – it creates a sense of failure for the 99% of the school community who never receive that public accolade.
The year after year progress of students who are graded according to these two main yardsticks does much to crush the spirit of our emerging generation. Is it any wonder we have such huge issues in the Western world around illicit alcohol and drug abuse, violence, obesity, teenage depression and youth suicide figures that are simply outrageous. Essentially classroom teachers know what can improve schooling and yet politicians make the decisions based on intellectual and fiscal directives!!”
“The body of a child will not grow if it is not fed; the mind will not flourish
unless it is stimulated and guided. And the spirit will suffer if it is not nurtured.”
Rachael Kessler “The Soul of Education.”
Maggie Dent

Most children in the UK start formal learning at the age of 4, and are expected to be able to write a basic sentence by the time they are 5. The new Early Years Foundation Stage has 69 targets for literacy, numeracy and even emotional development.
In contrast are the forest schools in Scandinavia. Here, they have done little research on what impact they have on the children’s academic performance later on. “As far as the Danes are concerned, the benefits of forest schools are immeasurable so they don’t try. In fact they have a pretty scathing attitude towards measuring outcomes in general”.
The Times on line, December 9, 2008

“There are shapes and sizes, colours and textures, smells and tastes; an enormous variety of substances. In a world of catalogues and consumable objects, designed spaces and programmed areas, sometimes it helps to remember that the natural world is full of multi dimensional, unassailing educational experiences for children. Nature is hard, soft, fragile, heavy, light, smooth, rough. Armed with our senses, we explore the world and call the adventure science, or if you prefer, cognitive development, classification, sensory development, or perceptual motor learning.”
Jim Greenman, “Caring Spaces, Learning Places: Children’s Environments that Work”

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous”

The key is curiosity, and it is curiosity, not answers that we model. As we seek to know more about a child, we demonstrate the acts of observing, listening, questioning and wondering. When we are curious about a child’s words and our responses to those words, the child feels respected. The child is respected. “What are the ideas that I have that are so interesting to the teacher?” I must be somebody with good ideas.
Vivian Paley

Dweck suggests that risk permits children to push themselves to the limits of their capacities and encourages them to progress. Rising to challenges, embracing risks and taking an “I can do” attitude are important characteristics of effective learners.
Risk and Play, Josie Gleave, 2008

It is argued that taking risks can have positive implications in terms of children’s developmental, social and emotional needs as well as their overall health. …eliminating risks deprives children of the opportunity to assess them efficiently and so they are unequipped to deal with situations they may encounter in later life.
Gill (2007) argues that it is about learning vital life skills which will give them vital experience needed to face the unpredictable nature of the world.
Risk and Play, a literature review; Josie Gleave, 2008)

From a scientific perspective, allowing and encouraging children to explore one topic or object through a diverse variety of physical media increases and enhances the neurological connections centralized around that topic or object, deepening a child’s schema of understanding about that thing. Representing and exploring things in different ways allows our brains to fully, comprehensively understand and appreciate those things in a way that simple bookwork would never allow.
Daniel Bigler, A Better Education blog spot

Professor Guttorm Fløistad summarizes the slow food philosophy,
The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.
Wikipedia$FILE/fr0112forestschoolsreport.pdf (Bentleigh west primary school)
A Better Education blog spot

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