New Series: Using Project WET for Outdoor Learning

(Read Part One here.)

(Read Part Two here.)

Participants field-tested activities such as the Breathing Boreal Forest Outdoor learning has been shown to positively impact teacher and student well-being and satisfaction Extensive research indicates that taking learning outside the classroom and into the natural environment is beneficial to students. Immersion in nature has been shown to positively impact student “well-being, creativity, brain function and mood”. Cognitive benefits have also been demonstrated, including “improved concentration, awareness, reasoning, creativity, imagination and cognitive functioning”. Other research has shown that an outdoor learning setting encourages skills such as problem solving and risk taking.

However, a new study from Swansea University in Wales is offering yet another reason to incorporate outdoor learning: teacher satisfaction. Emily Marchant, a PhD researcher in Medical Studies at Swansea University and lead author of the study, told Science Daily that while some of the teachers in the study were initially reluctant to take learning outdoors, once outdoor learning was embedded in the curriculum, “they spoke of improved job satisfaction and personal wellbeing.”

One study participant told researchers that they felt “less stressed” as a result of teaching students outdoors. The study also indicated that for some teachers, “the introduction and responsibility of delivering outdoor learning provided them with a sense of increased personal wellbeing and in particular, job satisfaction at a time of extreme pressure.”

Environmental educator Ian Taylor with students in OhioTeachers reported feeling "less stressed" and more satisfied with their jobs after incorporating outdoor learning “My feeling is just like, wow, this is just what I came into teaching for,” one teacher participating in the study told researchers.

The study identified teacher confidence as well as difficulty in meeting standards and measuring outcomes as hurdles for implementing outdoor learning. As the study says, “Some teachers found it hard to design lessons with meaningful activities that could both encompass the concept of outdoor learning and meet the requirements of the curriculum.”

Luckily, Project WET is here help overcome all those hurdles! From teacher training to standards-correlated activities, we offer educators around the world access to everything they need to get students outdoors and learning. We asked Project WET staff and USA Coordinators for their favorite Project WET activities go take outside. Most activities can be found in the Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0, which is available through your local Coordinator, but some are from other educator guides for sale on the Project WET store in hard copy or download.

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll share the list of nominated activities, including why educators love them. Follow the series here or on Project WET’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. In the meantime, if you have questions about how best to bring the outdoors to your students, feel free to contact your local Coordinator or Project WET staff.

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