Scotland had planned to use the outdoors to accommodate more children in child care. And their planned increase in fully funded child care hours was interrupted by the pandemic.
The outdoor play initiative was introduced for other reasons as well: to combat childhood obesity, to reduce screen time, to improve mental health and to increase the family’s connection to the environment. Here in Canada, we are seeing more outdoor and nature programs. For more information, visit Forest School Canada.
The belief is the outdoor environment allows the children to exert more control over their activities but the question remains to see if parents will support these programs. I feel the outdoor environment lends itself well to oral storytelling, which can be wonderful for supporting creativity and listening skills.
The opportunity for children to learn about risk management is beneficial as a life skill. But will the colder weather be a deterrent for educators and families alike? It will be interesting to see if the idea takes hold in Scotland, as it has in Scandinavian countries. According to what we are hearing from medical experts, it sounds as if the coronavirus is far less likely to be transmitted outdoors. So maybe our current situation and efforts to reduce spread of the virus will increase the support for outdoor learning.
One thing is certain: proper clothing and risk management are important for both teachers and children in outdoor settings. If these factors can be managed, I believe children will be more content and fully engaged outdoors and able to better to connect with the natural world, able to improve gross motor skills, and able to self-regulate with greater ease. Most of the things we do indoors can be brought outdoors as well.
I will be curious to see how the people of Scotland receive such programs as they seem to continue to spread here in North America.
Do you have any outdoor learning programs in your community? Are there any challenges to making them work successfully? I would be interested to hear your comments.
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