Why the Great Outdoors Are So Great

One of the goals of a Seven Arrows education is to create a dynamic ongoing relationship between students and the world outside the school campus. As part of this goal, our unique Environmental Outdoor Education program provides every student in kindergarten through sixth grade with grade-level-appropriate opportunities to apply scientific principles to the natural world. From nature hikes in kindergarten to a week in Yosemite for sixth graders, from oceanography classes at the beach to visiting the La Brea tar pits, from working in the Edible Garden to having P.E. classes at the park, our students have countless opportunities to engage with the natural world.

Above: 2016 – 2017 Sixth Grade Class Trip to Yosemite

When educating students outdoors, the environment becomes the classroom and provides experiences that increase ecological awareness and allow each child to develop greater self-reliance, leadership skills, and confidence. The goal of our program is to have students study concepts in science that both directly nurture their interconnectedness with one another and the earth’s natural resources. Applying science concepts to the environment, providing leadership opportunities, and developing social/emotional intelligence is a blend of learning that reaches all types of learners.

In addition to the pedagogical benefits, environmental psychologist Louise Chawla has found through her research that frequent outdoor experiences can reduce the symptoms of attention-deficit disorder, increase memory, and lead to lower rates of depression. The Journal of the Medical Association published research findings that indicate outdoor exposure can reduce the rates of nearsightedness in children.

Although trips and hikes into the backcountry are certainly prime examples of beneficial outdoor education, Erica Fine, in her research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found that, “frequent, close-to-home experiences are one of the best tools we have at connecting kids to nature.” By going to the park at lunch or simply exploring the Edible Garden, from the grandest canyon vista to the ant crawling across a leaf, students learn to appreciate all elements of nature.

For more information about the benefits of outdoor education, read more from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.