Outdoor education is a powerful tool that can help foster respect for nature and an ecological and environmental ethic in children. At the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network, we believe that outdoor learning is a valuable tool that can help connect children to the amazing biosphere they live in and promote sustainable mindsets that can be shared throughout the community.
In 2018, The Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario (COEO) published a research paper on the value of reconnecting children to nature through outdoor education. This research highlighted how outdoor education increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning, created a greater sense of pride and ownership in accomplishments, and increased critical thinking skills. Studies also suggested that outdoor learning is as important to children's well-being as good nutrition and sleep. Outdoor learning also contributes to physical activity and fitness in children and time spent in green areas strengthens children’s ability to focus.
Having access to quality education is a right and can enhance the ability of individuals to achieve other human rights, benefiting children, families and the greater communities. Sustainable Development Goal 4 - Quality Education, addresses the need to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. Education is a central concept that when advanced can contribute to the progress of many other sustainable development goals.
Photo from The Stockholm Resilience Centre. The Wedding Cake model visualizes the UN Sustainable Development Goals separated into (1) Economy, (2) Society and (3) Bisophere, with SDG 17-Partnerships for the Goals uniting all three categories.
The nature programs offered through the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network use outdoor education to build literacy, knowledge and skills surrounding many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The education opportunities offered through the FAB Nature Camps address SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 - Climate Action, SDG 15 - Life on Land, SDG 17- Partnership for the Goals and many others! Outdoor education allows children to learn first-hand about the amazing adaptations and strategies local plants and animals use helping to build respect and appreciation for their intrinsic value. In the past the FAB Nature Camps have combined education with fun, engaging lesson plans to address topics such as discovering the secrets of soil, improving their backpacking skills and learning how small actions can make a big difference! Engaging hands-on with the environment allows children to see first-hand the positive effects of their interactions with nature and promotes a passion for future outdoor learning.
In terms of progress towards SDG 4- Quality Education, Canada ranks relatively high compared to other nations. However, the opportunities for intellectual growth and improved physical and mental well-being offered through outdoor education can complement the skills and knowledge gained through traditional education. Outdoor learning can help foster environmental mindsets that prepare children to make a difference in our multidisciplinary, interconnected society.
For more information on the Nature Programs offered by the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network click here! And don’t forget, one of the easiest ways to learn from nature is to get out and explore it. As Bob Ross said: “You don’t have to know everything about nature, just watch and enjoy”.
Humphreys, C. (2018). Dynamic Horizons: A Research and Conceptual Summary of Outdoor Education. Available at https://www.coeo.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/COEO2018DynamicHorizons…;