What do Teachers Love About Time in Nature Explore Classrooms?

by Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant

DSC04727_04When children are engrossed in self-initiated exploration/play, teachers can take a break from the pressures of “teaching.” In Nature Explore Classrooms, teachers find they can meet curriculum requirements while they assist children in researching their own interests. In this outdoor time they are free to extend the children’s learning through facilitation.Some teachers step back a bit, watching and observing. This time can also be valuable for note taking.Children engaging in their own investigations will often behave differently than they do in traditional indoor classrooms, often becoming their “best selves” when active in Nature Explore Classrooms.  Teachers may see sides of the children that are important for understanding the “whole child.”

Children, in turn, can see the “other side” of teachers.  When supported in exploring their own interests, children can form new and engaging relationships with teachers and each other.

Teachers have reported to us that children play with unusual cooperation outside when engaged in their own projects. Children who “own” their play want to share their discoveries and ideas.  Cooperative play is often the norm.  Also, restless children, often those diagnosed with ADHD or other behavioral challenges, may focus better in outdoor environments after time in nature, with their behavior becoming less diffusely active, and more directed.

By “taking a break” when in Nature Explore Classrooms, children can learn while knowing that the agenda is theirs, and that they will not be tested or graded on what they learn, so they are often more experimental and freer in their play.  Without the external pressure, teachers report that children’s learning often becomes deeper and more meaningful.

For teachers, too, these outdoor experiences can be a source of refreshment in an otherwise structured day.  In Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, both teachers and students are “naturals.”