Getting outside in the great outdoors is generally seen as a good thing for children, however recent studies have shown that it is not just a breath of fresh air that may be healthy for children but that being outside may also improve their capacity for weighing and assessing risk, and spatial awareness and reasoning, as well as increase confidence and independence.
Due in part to these findings, forest schools have been popping up internationally, schools which encourage the use of nature in play and learning and involve learning outside of a traditional classroom setting. Forest school activities are lead by the child and allow for their own reasoning and interests to take part in their education, this is an attempt to create more engagement in learning and individuality in the education system.
As the children in the studies were encouraged to engage in and create activities as a group, cooperation was seen to increase as well as self-esteem. Learning in this way is less structured than in a traditional school setting and involves learning through doing as well as through observation, engagement, leading conversations and asking questions, rather than sitting and listening.
Forest learning is not just for children but also is healthy and beneficial for people of all ages; it provides different stimuli from the technologically based world we generally operate in and gives ears a break from the constant noise of the city and eyes a break from artificial light and constant movement, encouraging relaxation and focus.
An added benefit to forest play is that it allows children to develop a stronger connection with nature, which could seemingly result in a greater consideration for the natural world in this child’s future endeavours. Perhaps instead of razing forests to build level, manicured playgrounds, more schools should bring children to nature.