Outdoor School concept - 5 Reasons why it will boost your students Behavior, Social Skills

By: Admin 30 March, 2017

Strategies for School Heads and Teachers to create your own outdoor school.

This piece of article focuses on the use of Outdoor education as a tool in schools to develop improved behavioural changes in students. The second half of the article provides ways for school heads and teachers to create their own Outdoor education program. According to a recent study, letting your child play in natural surroundings can yield extraordinary results. The study also suggested that outdoor learning needs to be introduced more formally into global school curricula in order for its potential benefits to be fully realised.

In this article we are taking an example of  Hood River Middle School in Oregon, USA. Outdoor School (ODS) is a three-day environmental education program for sixth-grade students. It represents many firsts for the students : their first time away from home, their first time camping, and for this generation, it has also become their first experience without a digital connection, and therefore, their first experience being completely responsible for their own entertainment. 

Out of all the benefits of Outdoor School, here are five that consistently rise to the top, as well as five tips on getting started to create your own Outdoor School program!

Top 5 Benefits of Outdoor School:

1. It builds community.

From the groups traveling together on the bus, to the groups sharing cabins, to the field study groups that rotate through activities, students live and work in teams that they wouldn't form on their own. Kids often talk about making new friends at ODS, many of whom they've seen at school for years without knowing personally. ODS also allows our parents to see kids in a different light. Parents come back seeing kids as way more capable than they would have believed without witnessing it first-hand.

2. It raises expectations and standards.
Visitors to the Outdoor School -- often parents, administrators, and other teachers -- are always surprised to see how heavily students are involved with running the program. Students cook the food, wash the dishes, clean the lodge and sleeping areas, keep the site clean. And they do all of this while immersed in a field-science program that asks them to be multidisciplinary scientists drawing on prior knowledge to interact with a variety of environments, weather, and physical challenges of a mountain environment. Because of the supportive community and the new, exciting setting, students consistently rise to standards and expectations.
3. It increases connection.
Watching a group of sixth-grade boys prepare a meal for other children is an amazing experience. They get into the details about everything -- silverware setting, enough plates, dinner prep timing. Who's going outside to find fresh wildflowers for the table decorations? Did you wash your hands again? All of these become relevant and viable questions. As ODS progresses, students act on increasingly refined details of the experience. They want to provide a better and more unique experience for each other. By the end of the final field study, their sense of protection and preservation shows in the complicated restoration plans that they've developed for the site.



4. It builds culture.

Cultures share a common language, values, purpose, and connection to place as a fundamental expression of who they are. All of these things develop for a group of students in just three short days. They have cabin names, job titles, and place names on the site that only people from ODS would understand or recognize. Campfire time in the evening is a highlight of the day, and possibly the first time that many students have been truly responsible for their own entertainment without technology. Ask a student about his or her ODS experience and be prepared for a long, complex answer. Ask ten students and some themes will begin to arise about working hard, being outside, having fun, and great food experiences -- all hallmarks of developed cultures.

4. It develops positive feelings and memories around school and the outdoors.

When students are asked about their favorite school experience, over 50 percent talk about Outdoor School as the high point of their school. They can tell you the name of their cabin group, their role in a skit, their favorite song, and every detail about the weather their group had -- and if they were a member of the famous snowstorm expedition! They'll tell you about the best pancake they ever ate and the deer they saw during field study. They want to go back to ODS every year.

Create Your Own Outdoor Education Program!

You can create your own program or get in touch with a company that provides outdoor educational programs. There are many available in India. If you want to create your own Outdoor School program, it begins with a few questions:

1. Where will you go?

Is there a facility in range of your school that will foster the experience of being away and unplugged? Hilly areas, forest areas, sea-shores, and state parks all are good places to look for a site. Having a site that you can feel connected to over time really helps build continuity in your program.



2. How will you run the program?

Will you operate the program yourself or pay a staff to facilitate your experience? Both options are great. You have to put in effort only once, after that you can build on the reviews and you will have a set budget ready for the program. 

3. What will you do at Outdoor School?

There is no set Outdoor School curriculum. Try not to do things that you could do at school. Really take advantage of being outside, and match your activities to the unique features of the site. Any biome will work: ocean shore, forest, alpine, desert, prairie -- it's all good! Just get them outside and learning. Reach out to local experts; find regional scientists that manage those areas, and look to  How will you run the program? 


4.What is the appropriate way to start?

If a week, three days, or even an overnight seems too hard, a one-day trip might be the best way to get started. Lower stress, easier facilitation, and gentle entry are all good things. Starting small means that you'll be likely to have early success. Success builds upon itself and leads to bigger outcomes. 

5. Who is already doing it?

There are many companies that are involved in curating Outdoor Educational tours for school kids. Many schools in India are taking part in their programs and helping students create memories and lifetime experiences. Some are listed here:

  • Woodstock School in Uttarakhand collaborates with Hanifl Centre once or twice a year for outdoor education in the Himalayas.
  • Youreka Camps provide Summer camps for school children. Many schools register in their programs regularly and have great things to say. Nalanda International School, Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya (Gwalior), Oakridge International (Hyderabad) are a few of them.


This article has been taken from Edutopia Website. Click Here to know more.