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Nature’s Lessons: Exploring Education in the Great Outdoors

Nature's Lessons: Exploring Education in the Great Outdoors - AboutBoulder.com

Anyone who enjoys the outdoor lifestyle will tell you that there’s something truly special about embracing nature, and Boulder residents are sure to agree that getting up close to flora and fauna can give you a boost, not only physically but mentally too.

It’s no wonder, then, that forest schools and outdoor classrooms are increasingly finding their way into educational institutions around the world as experts begin to recognize the importance of the natural environment for positive learning experiences. More education professionals are choosing to take their students outside the traditional four walls of the classroom, so let’s look a little more closely at the benefits that the great outdoors can bring learners.

The Positive Benefits Of Outdoor Learning

Spending time in nature is not only incredibly important for health and well-being but it’s also been proven to have educational benefits too. This holds true for students of all ages, from early years up to adult learners, and encompasses the full range of subjects, including English as a Second Language.

For students developing their English language skills, outdoor learning can offer some significant advantages. Therefore, people who are learning how to become a certified ESL teacher should look beyond the classroom environment when planning enriching and engaging lessons.

Facilitating Different Learning Styles

The natural environment offers learning experiences that are sensory-rich and interactive. It’s been proven that students enjoy enhanced learning when they can see, taste, smell, and touch as well as hear. Utilizing all of their senses helps promote better retention of what they have learned.

It is widely recognized that there are different learning styles, and learning outdoors enables those who respond in different ways to explore their new knowledge, whether kinaesthetically, visually, aurally, or verbally, to best suit their preferences. Hands-on activities also create memorable experiences for students, who can then draw on them later to reinforce their learning.

A Stress-Free Environment

Most educators would agree that learning in an environment with minimal stress is the most productive way to attain knowledge and retain it in the long term. This is especially the case when learning a new language. In a traditional classroom setting, students can feel under pressure to respond or participate and may feel uncomfortable or anxious as a result.

Learning outside lowers learners’ emotional barriers that could otherwise prove to be an obstacle to effective learning. Away from the confines of a restrictive traditional classroom, learners can participate in a wider variety of activities, integrating their newly acquired language skills in a more natural way without the pressure associated with the more typical educational setting. Outdoor learning can be fun, interactive, and engaging – three things that increase the chances of the lesson content being remembered more effectively.

Fostering Collaboration To Share Language Knowledge And Skills

Embracing outdoor activities as part of ESL learning gives students the chance to participate in collaborative activities. Working as a group is an excellent way to support for learners to support each other, exchange knowledge, and share their skills in an environment that fosters effective learning.

Working as part of a team in the natural world enables students from different cultures, countries, and backgrounds to bring their own perspectives to the table and, by doing this, enrich the learning experiences of others as they work together to complete a specific task.

Nature's Lessons: Exploring Education in the Great Outdoors - AboutBoulder

Boosting Confidence For Effective Learning

No matter how young or old a student may be, if they lack confidence in their own abilities, they will struggle to develop new skills. When it comes to learning a second language, a lack of confidence can be especially debilitating, preventing students from pushing their barriers or trying new things.

Outdoor activities have been shown to help improve confidence levels and boost self-esteem. When learners feel more assured of their own abilities, they become more willing to push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zones, and in the context of language learning, they become less afraid to make a mistake – something that can hold them back in their attempts to improve their speaking and writing skills.

Ideas For Creative Outdoor ESL Learning Activities

There are lots of ways that outdoor activities can be integrated into ESL lessons. Some creative ideas include:

  • Scavenger hunts to find specific items from an English list.
  • Obstacle courses, treasure maps, or mazes with directions in English.
  • Outdoor English reading or storytelling with actions and movement.
  • Writing in English about the things they can see, hear, touch, and smell outdoors.
  • Playing games such as “What Time Is It Mr. Wolf” with numbers, rhymes, colors, or repetition of letters.
  • Sharing a picnic naming the different types of food in English.

These are just a few of the ways in which learning in nature can be incorporated into the ESL curriculum to promote positive learning for English learners of all ages and abilities.

As an English as a Second Language or ESL teacher, Boulder has just been ranked as the top place for outdoor lovers to move to, so there’s no better place to begin incorporating the great outdoors into lesson plans. With so many stunning natural environments to discover, from beautiful trail at Boulder Creek to the spectacular mountain views from Chautauqua Park, Boulder has plenty to offer nature fans and English language learners alike.

John Mali Director of Media Relations

Director of Media Relations at AboutBoulder.com


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