The Benefits of Outdoor Education, Physical Activity and Mindfulness.

Imagine that you are outside walking. The sun is shining and the scenery is breathtaking. Let’s say you spend a few hours outdoors. You become aware of the natural surroundings that embrace you. You start to feel calm and happy.

 

In the afternoon you come home and you notice that you have walked 22 kilometres and you feel really happy about that.

You have a bath or a shower and afterwards you feel warm in your whole body and you have rosy cheeks. You are hungry and you feel like eating something healthy. A friend calls and wants to have a barbecue outside.

 

 

Your mind feels clear and you feel balanced. You go out in the park and have a barbecue in the evening. When night falls you fall asleep easily and you sleep deeply.

This was one of my days this week.

The benefits of being outside in nature are many. The benefits of physical activity likewise. Add a dose of mindfulness and you have a pretty good chance of staying balanced often, and be more open for learning new things.

These are things that I think about and act upon when I work as an IB educator and design learning activities for my students.

This school year the P.E teacher and I initiated a physical activity program, where we wanted to see the students being physically active every day.

My students have their two normal P.E lessons each week, plus three more sessions of what we call “Let’s Move”, a sportive program to enhance student well-being and learning. The students enjoy it tremendously. Our hope is that all students at school will have Let’s Move in the future.

During the times we live in now, with the pandemics and with schools still being open in Sweden, I have decided to spend more time outdoors with my students.

Outdoor education is something that I have been thinking of a lot, but never really seemed to get my head around properly. Now, during the pandemic, I started to read up on outdoor education, utepedagogik as it is called in Swedish. I started to network with like-minded educators from around the globe on LinkedIn and I realized that the time is now. The pandemic itself is devastating and stressful, but it is also opening new doors for us to reinvent, to imagine new beginnings and to question the status quo.

When it comes to physical activity, time spent in nature and mindfulness, the science is here; they all enhance our well-being and we learn better. Why not implementing the three more in the world of education?

Schools can be rigid places where change takes a long time. Luckily I work within the IB-program, which is a cutting edge, well-rounded, holistic program that focus on inquiry based learning, has a transdisciplinary approach and a focus on concepts and skills within the curriculum. Within our set of PYP ATL skills we have the self management skills and its sub skills: affective skills and mindfulness!

Tomorrow is the first day after the Easter Break and I will definitely bring my students outside and do outdoor teaching and learning.

Have a look at the benefits we gain, from spending time in nature, from being physically active and from doing mindfulness training regularly.

Some of the main benefits of being outside in nature are:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower level of stress
  • Better cardiac health
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Better concentration and a feeling of a clear mind
  • Better memory
  • More energy
  • Boost of the immune system
  • Helping weight loss
  • Inspiration to become more creative
  • More apt to take care of nature
  • Easier to learn things
  • More apt to collaborate

 

The benefits of being physically active are very similar to the above list. Let’s add some more benefits:

  • Better brain functions
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Discipline
  • Grit
  • Growth mindset
  • Chance of having low blood cholesterol
  • Stronger bones
  • Better recovery if being ill or injured
  • Better mood
  • Better sleep
  • Easier to learn things

Now let’s look at some of the benefits of mindfulness:

  • Stress reduction
  • Focus
  • Less reactive, more proactive.
  • Better cognitive flexibility
  • Calmer
  • More intuitive
  • Better self-insight
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Be happier
  • Solve problem in a more balanced way
  • Better sleep
  • Easier to learn things

 

Here are some further reading:

 

Harvard: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/10/great-outdoors

Naturskyddsföreningen: https://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/skola/naturen-som-klassrum

Frilutsfrämjandet: https://www.friluftsframjandet.se/detta-gor-vi/forskolor-och-skolor/pedagogiken/vad-sager-forskningen-om-barns-rorelse/

Friluftsfrämjandet: https://www.friluftsframjandet.se/detta-gor-vi/forskolor-och-skolor/pedagogiken/vad-sager-forskningen-om-undervisning-utomhus/

 

Yvette

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