Outdoor Learning Influence On Young Children


Education is a field and a collection of constantly evolving processes to meet the criteria presented by the ever-changing world. With the development of new approaches towards student engagement, interactive learning, and ethics, it is also necessary to gradually transform how educational institutions work with their students. The facilitation of learning during early age and its continuation into adulthood remains one of the core facts of knowledge. It must be mastered to ensure future generations can find employment and work within an increasingly complex society. In this process, the inclusion and consideration of new teaching models become essential, as the traditional teaching environment has its limitations in terms of learning quality.

One of the complex approaches and methods towards improving the field is embracing the inclusion of non-classroom environments into the educational process. As a whole, the inclusion of learning outside the classroom can be considered a movement in academic circles, combining various practices towards achieving the same goal. This piece exists to summarise and evaluate the information presented by the current body of literature regarding learning outside of the classroom, its effectiveness, and its uses in the educational sphere.

The overview will first establish some differences between traditional learning and learning outside of the classroom to distinguish better the concepts discussed. Then, the specific definitions of achievement related to academic prowess and learning will be considered. The paper’s central section discusses the professed and researched benefits of an outside teaching experience, along with their proponents, researchers, and relevant theories. This piece aims to demonstrate that when used correctly, outdoor learning has a great potential for improving children’s educational experience, including their confidence, enthusiasm during learning, and comprehension.

The review primarily concerns younger children; however, the implications of outdoor learning can also be beneficial to older teenagers. The central assertion of the work is that outdoor learning and the incorporation of more open approaches to early education is highly beneficial to the development of young children their ability to find academic achievement while developing relevant social and interpersonal skills. Such a conclusion is supported by a large variety of evidence, including practical applications of various types of non-standard education.

Achievement and the Improvement of Learning, Review of Existing Literature

This work will use the term achievement as one of the primary metrics for understanding various teaching modes’ effectiveness. Therefore, it might be necessary to provide further context into how the word is used in this context and the implications it carries for the educational sphere. The dictionary defines achievement as something being done successfully, mainly using one’s skills or efforts (“Achievement noun – Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes,” 2021). However, it is necessary to expand this definition further to match the criteria set by the topic of the discussion. In academic circles, it is a measure that helps determine how successfully an individual can meet their long and short-term educational goals (Novo and Calixto, 2009). The student or the institution can either set the goals in question. Generally, academic achievement and success levels are essential metrics to consider in education discussions and can be an effective way to discuss the effectiveness of educational programs. Therefore, consideration for achievement as a measurement of students’ ability to fulfil the expectations of the education system and their academic aspirations becomes the fundamental definition of the term.

Another term also exists connected with achievement, which is attainment. For educators, the two have a similar but uniquely distinct meaning. Academic attainment refers to the highest level of education a person has managed to obtain, in addition to an array of other academic competencies (Novo and Calixto, 2009). While achievement is used to describe and measure more incremental parts of the education system, academic attainment focuses on a broader determinant for success. The former metric is critical to discuss concerning early-life education, as the quality of teaching of children has a considerable impact on their future academic success. As shown in the review made by Cortázar et al. (2019), early education academic achievement levels correlate strongly with further school outcomes and the effectiveness of education. Consequently, it is important to consider students’ educational achievements as one of the primary indicators for teaching success. As such, the perfection of early education methods is necessary to improve the quality of education as a whole. By allowing children to reach higher limits of both academic achievement and attainment, the education system can significantly improve their outcomes later in life.

Learning Spaces and the Outdoors

In education, especially early on, various factors play a role in how children come to conceptualise learning. Educators provide their students with an enriching experience that ideally provides children with the necessary knowledge, skills, and social competencies to seek self-fulfilment and work within society. Teaching itself is undoubtedly considered one of the most important ones; however other concerns must be tackled. In particular, the role of the learning environment itself needs attention. Traditionally, teachers operate in classrooms and other educational facilities within a confined space, which lends itself to an organised and structured rhythm. On the contrary, such a space can also be seen as restrictive and inflexible, only allowing a particular set of competencies to be developed in children. Imms et al. (2016) note that the traditional classroom environment can often limit the possible range of experiences children can partake in, leaving a large room for improvement in terms of educational organisation. The author further elaborates that classrooms can be intellectually dull to students, non-engaging, and uncomfortable. Other sources also indicate that the teaching profession has continuously strived to shift away from the established classroom structure instead of adopting various methods for improving student engagement and morale (Earp, 2019). Considering such evidence, it becomes apparent that a structural change in the way children are taught is necessary.

Such an assumption is validated by some influential and relevant learning theories that support the integration of the environment as an impactful factor for enhanced educational achievement. Firstly, the theory of experiential learning, which is well-known as Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, emphasises the importance of the availability of outdoor spaces for hands-on experiences of learning, which are particularly important when teaching real life problem-solving skills (Morris, 2020). The use of this theory in the context of the proposed learning outside the classroom illustrates that the integration of a non-standard learning environment expands the opportunities for students and facilitates their consecutive competencies for coping with challenges in real life.

Another important theoretical framework applicable to the implementation of outdoor activities for educational purposes is the situated learning theory. This theoretical approach validates the use of material learning through observation and practice in the immediate natural environment to simulate a real-live environment (Yeoman and Wilson, 2019). This theory applies to the validation of learning outside the classroom by emphasising the benefits for learners and the availability of resources. In particular, according to research, situated learning allows for multiple benefits on students’ cognition development, socialisation, and empirical learning (Yeoman and Wilson, 2019). Moreover, being originated from the works of Vygotsky, “situative theories of learning argue that culture and society are a generative force in the development of the human mind, not just the backdrop against which it develops” (Yeoman and Wilson, 2019, p. 4). Thus, the discussed theories of learning outline the advantages obtained from outdoor spaces.

Several programs have been developed to break from the traditional structure of the educational presentation and offer students an opportunity to gain knowledge and skills structurally different from a standard classroom. Most of such efforts are aimed at helping children develop a diverse set of skills, emotions, and competencies, ones that will aid them in understanding the world, interacting with others, and managing their lives in the future. In particular, the role of the outdoors in the facilitation of various personal, social, and academic competencies in children should be considered. For this assertion, data provided by sources such as Gelblum (2019) can be valuable. The article states that the practise can make children more attentive, engaged, motivated, and disciplined. Research by Cheng et al. (2012) supports this, showing that children are more likely to be interested in learning about nature when they have a point of contact with it or have better exposure to nature. The study has developed a “connection to nature” index, which was used to gauge children’s attitudes towards the subject, including feelings of enjoyment, connection, and empathy (Cheng et al., 2012). The investigation results provide insight into how young learners interact with the natural world. Such findings suggest that exposure to the outdoors is likely to make children more interested in learning about it and more receptive to particular types of knowledge. Similarly, it has also been observed that a closer connection to nature can help young people develop environmentally conscious behaviours. Collado et al. (2013) state that the outdoors is highly underutilised in its educational capacity. The author further explains that the exposure to the outdoor space and positive experiences within it directly connect to pro-environmental action. With the increased importance that comes to be placed on environmental awareness in today’s society, the capability of children to become more familiar with the topic is ubiquitously good.

In conjunction with discussing the importance of interacting with nature, it is also necessary to highlight how novel and flexible ways of teaching work in tandem with outdoor education in helping children develop. Some specific solutions can be examined concerning the validity and effectiveness of non-traditional educational approaches. Among such practices, the Montessori Method can be an effective tool for improving learning. A non-traditional approach to education seeks to replace a standard classroom experience with a creatively driven, hands-on initiative. This method treats pupils not as a collective but as a group of individuals, each with their hardships, skills, and competencies. Montessori education promotes active understanding and interaction between students and their environment (Learning Theories, 2019). Furthermore, this approach towards early education is highly flexible, using its key guidelines to let teachers and childcare professionals construct suitable learning environments. Research and evaluation into the success of this method have been limited. However, the existing literature review notes it to be effective in promoting children’s cognitive and social development (Marshall, 2017). The author has reached this conclusion after examining the effectiveness and consequences of applying the Montessori Method, as it was covered in relevant educational sources. On the other hand, Marshall (2017) also notes that the flexible nature of the method can significantly decrease its effectiveness, as its adaptations are usually less “faithful to its creator’s principles” (Marshall, 2017). Therefore, the exact success and effectiveness of the Montessori method depend primarily on the competencies of educators.

Other solutions to introducing different education environments include Forest School (Knight, 2011). This specific education delivery style demonstrates a fusion between a more traditional learning environment and an outdoors-focused approach. Students are encouraged to visit various natural locations, helping them develop skills and learn. The use of forests and the woods are then taken to help children build independence and understand themselves to be a part of nature, which increasingly becomes more complex with the advancement of society (Knight, 2013). Work that combines natural spaces and education establishes a sense of connection and community between individuals and their place in the world while also helping to provide a more varied learning environment.

One of the notable conclusions made by proponents of outdoor education is its capacity to simulate carried learning styles, including the visual, auditory, reading, or kinaesthetic (Constable, 2014). Despite this, in the face of this data, one should note that learning styles as a concept and their effect on education have continuously been put into question (Dekker et al., 2012). Currently, no reputable sources indicate that students can attain better academic success by adhering to their “preferred” learning style. Although teaching styles are highly doubtful, the presented conclusions still have significant implications on the effectiveness of outdoor learning. In particular, it means that a non-traditional environment can support a variety of teaching models, using visual, auditory and kinetic approaches towards making its learning more approachable, comprehensive and varied. Incorporating different types of data helps children retain information better and remember more of what is being discussed.

There are also additional considerations that can be noted regarding novel methods for children’s education. One of the facets of this discussion rarely brought up is the need to promote environmental consciousness and understanding in younger generations. With the effects of the climate crisis slowly becoming more severe, the role of individuals in the fight towards supporting and conserving the environment becomes bigger. While the personal contribution may be small, the comprehensive change in how generations of children see and interact with the environment plays a vital role in supporting the planet. Environmental organisations such as The Rainforest Alliance (2014) emphasise the need to teach children about nature conservation and other practices.

In terms of the mental impact on pupils, learning in traditional classrooms is detrimental to the well-being and confidence of students. The emotional and psychological impact of education is crucial in helping children develop and making sure they can perform academically. As discussed in this paper, the traditional classroom environment can be isolating, making it difficult for children to concentrate compared to the outdoors. Outdoor learning has been shown in research, such as Beames et al. (2012), to boost children’s concentration and their capacity to focus on a task. An outside environment has a more positive impact on children’s mentality and ability to succeed (Barnes and Sharp 2004). Emotional intelligence and the ability to interact with others are also improved in such an environment (Knight, 2013). The freer space for learning allows students to express their feelings and emotions more freely and connect with others on a deeper level.


Traditional learning methods have become obsolete with the discovery and establishment of children’s needs in education. Classic classroom organisation is restrictive towards childhood learning and discouraging to self-actualisation, which is especially vital during earlier years of growth. Educators and scholars worldwide have seen the opportunity presented in this discrepancy. Many strides have been made over the years to change the way children’s learning is organised, striving to improve the quality of the process. Therefore, a significant move towards integrating the outdoors into the learning environment is noticeable, using various methods to achieve this goal.

To conclude, promoting outdoor education is beneficial to both the teaching professionals and their subjects. Studies and practice have shown that the introduction of nature to children is formative towards their attentiveness, worldview, academic capabilities and attitudes towards the environment. Teachers can better help children adapt to the needs of the modern world and prepare them for interacting with each other and the society in which they live. It is possible to help young children learn while also increasing their capacity to concentrate on tasks, confidence, interpersonal skills, and self-expression. Adopting various methods towards incorporating the outdoors into teaching is valuable and effective in transforming how education is performed on an institutional level. Several approaches similar to the Montessori Method have shown to be effective. The integration of forest environments, as shown by Forest Schools and other types of biomes, helps to provide children with unique experiences and stimulation. The overview created throughout this paper seeks to relay the effectiveness of outdoor learning and promote its use in early education.

Reference List

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