Think about how you feel when you are outdoors enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and being active – Open-air living. Regardless of the activity choice, we all feel better when we spend adequate time outdoors. Scandinavian countries have their own term when referring to the benefits of outdoor education and Open-air living – Filuftsliv. Many people worldwide, believe strongly that enjoying nature through outdoor activities without disturbing or destroying the environment promotes well-being. Research indicates that Norway Kindergarten children spend up to 70% of their time outside with 30% of their time outside even in winter months. By contrast, the US Environmental Protection Agency discovered an average of 90% of our time in the US is spent indoors and students age 8 – 12 spend 4 to 6 hours a day viewing some type of device screen, with our older students spending more than 6 hours on devices. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds that 4 – 6 hours of screen time per day contributes to sleep issues, lower academic performance, poor self-image, decreased fitness levels, and overall well-being.
What can we do about it?
Get kids outside and teach them outdoor adventure skills they can use for a lifetime! The Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to do just that…Get more kids outdoors through teaching outdoor adventure activities and promoting wildlife conservation worldwide. The good news is, there are extensive benefits for students who participate in outdoor education programs. The Nature Alliance finds through their research Outdoor Education provides a host of benefits: Enhanced brain development, increased academic performance, boundary exploration, increased collaboration and communication skills, improved resilience, and self-regulation, decreased ADHD symptoms, increased physical activity/fitness levels, understanding consequences, and promotes life-long outdoor learners and overall well-being. There is a strong alignment between the outdoor adventure curriculum and opportunities for social and emotional learning. Outdoor activities encourage social skill development including patience, collaboration, responsibility, persistence, and personal self-awareness. Students learn to work on attention skills through an outdoor adventure scavenger hunt, self-control, patience, and perseverance through a fishing unit, or responsible decision making, respect, and collaboration through camping and hiking activities. The possibilities are tremendous.
The Outdoor Adventures Curriculum
The outdoor adventures curriculum is not your traditional physical education course. Instead of teaching physical education with basketballs and tennis rackets, we use rods and reels, and bows and arrows. The outdoor adventure curriculum is designed to change young people’s lives by exposing them to the many great opportunities of the outdoors. Outdoor Adventure programming can be taught as units within your existing curriculum or as a separate course in physical education or agriculture science. School Principals report virtues such as improved self-esteem, improved attendance, fewer discipline issues, and improved grades for students while enrolled in an outdoor adventure course. Outdoor adventure programming can lead to extracurricular opportunities for all students, resulting in students being more engaged in the educational system. As a result of outdoor adventure’s popularity, schools have established after-school archery teams, fishing clubs or teams, and competitive sporting clay groups. There are no racial, physical, gender, or socioeconomic barriers, and all students enjoy an equal opportunity to participate and become engaged in extracurricular activities.
The Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation engaged Responsive Management, a premier survey analysis company, to conduct a research study involving a representative sample of 4,957 students. This is some of what the survey results determined.
- “The material covered in Outdoor Adventures cannot be found in any other class. It gives students a different view on the outdoors and teaches them how important the world around them really is,” said a student at Arlington Martin High School.
- I have learned more about the outdoors in the first six weeks than I have known my whole life,” said a student at Stone Middle School.
- The survey rating for each of the units and Outdoor Adventures, in general, proved the program to be highly popular with 90% of the respondents.
- 92% of students responded that the Outdoor Adventure programming prepared them to hunt, fish, shoot, hike, camp, or go boating on their own or with a family member.
- Over 90% learned “a lot” or “a little” about wildlife management, ethics, values, and wilderness stewardship.
- Pre- and post-program survey comparisons indicated a shift from “good” to “excellent” when students were asked to rate their ability to participate in sports or physical activities, to develop friendships with other students, to maintain good relationships with their teachers, to stay out of trouble, and to get good grades.
If you would like to continue the conversation on how to initiate an outdoor adventure program or enhance the one you already have, contact Tari at Outdoor Adventures Tomorrow Foundation. Let’s work together to get more kids outdoors! Tari@GoOTF.com
Tari Garner has taught physical education and adapted physical education for 40 years and has experience with elementary through university-age students. She taught at the high school level for 19 years and was a head coach for two sports for 20+ years. Tari is a national board-certified teacher and your 2013 CD Teacher of the Year. She taught as an adapted specialist with the State School for Severely Disabled for the past two years and introduced Outdoor Adventure to students at the State School. She believes strongly in the benefits of Outdoor Adventure programming and has been fortunate to teach OA throughout her career. Tari is currently an Outdoor Adventure Coordinator for the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation. She is a past MOSHAPE and Central District SHAPE America President and has been involved in a variety of leadership positions during her career. She promotes physical education and health for all students and works to encourage an inclusive environment in all that she does. Tari is an advocate for teachers across the nation.