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Outdoor teaching 'can have significant educational benefits'

19/01/2018 Joanna

Children are likely to be much more engaged by their schoolwork if given the opportunity to enjoy outdoor lessons in nature, according to a new study.

The US research, carried out by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, aimed to explore whether the proven benefits of outdoor environments - including stress reduction, rejuvenated attention and increased motivation - could be leveraged in an educational setting.

To assess this, students aged nine and ten years old attending a school in the Midwestern US were given one lesson a week outdoors and a similar lesson in a regular classroom over a ten-week period.

It was shown that children were generally more engaged after the outdoor lessons, becoming significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork. Notably, the number of times that teachers had to redirect students' attention to their work was roughly halved immediately after an outdoor lesson.

These benefits were seen both when lessons were taught by experienced, engaged teaching staff, and when less experienced and more sceptical teachers were in charge. This suggests that regular outdoor lessons could be an inexpensive and convenient way for schools to enhance student engagement and performance.

Ming Kuo, a scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said: "We're excited to discover a way to teach students and refresh their minds for the next lesson at the same time. Teachers can have their cake and eat it too."

Past studies have shown that even a view of greenery through a classroom window can have positive effects on attention spans, with this latest research also assuaging concerns that outdoor lessons would overstimulate students and make it difficult for them to concentrate.

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