Helping Children form connections with the natural world
Children who play outdoors regularly are smarter, happier, healthier and get along better with others.
When children have a chance to discover nature hands-on, their natural curiosity helps ignite their innate desire to learn.
This is the belief of Learning Outside, a farm situated at Triangle Land Conservancy’s Irvin Nature Preserve in North Carolina. It encompasses 269 acres of pasture, forest and wetlands and offers nature courses to children of all ages. It believes that people learn and experience the world around them differently in natural settings, which is why discovering nature first-hand leads to happier, more successful learning experiences for children both at home and at school.
Learning Outside offers children the chance to experience and learn about the outdoors, enhancing their lives and giving them a love for the natural world. Courses take place throughout the day for different age groups, and there are also camps during the school holidays. Learning Outside’s approach integrates the arts, sciences and humanities with outdoor learning. Experienced and knowledgeable naturalists, educators and artists lead the programmes which are held entirely outdoors, regardless of the weather.
As well as cultivating a sense of stewardship for the environment among its students, Learning Outside’s programmes also emphasise community-building and good interpersonal relationships.
“The children learn to respect and trust each other. Through nature, children learn how to collaborate, pursue things that interest them and even teach other children what they learn.”
- Wendy Banning, Director, Learning Outside
Research confirms that children need to spend time outdoors exposed to fresh air, sunlight and natural elements such as trees and grass if they are to be healthy as they grow and develop. In addition, if children have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play outdoors, they are smarter, happier, healthier and get along better with others. However, playing outdoors in a healthy environment might not be possible for children who live in built-up areas – heavy traffic, pollution or a lack of green places to play in, among other things, can prevent this. That is why Learning Outside focuses on children who do not have ready access to opportunities to learn and explore the outdoors.
Oak has been supporting the Learning Outside programme since 2011. The aim of the current grant is to develop the organisation’s outdoor learning programmes and help ensure its financial stability.
Source: Oak Foundation Annual Report
Year of publication: 2015