Junior Award Scheme for Schools

A world wide Accredited Learning Programme for young people. Recognising wider achievement.

There is no doubt that there are many benefits to technology, from increasing knowledge and sharing experiences to keeping in contact with friends and family across the world. However it is also apparent that more and more children are exposed to screens and are spending less time in the outdoors. In early 2016, a study reported in The Guardian suggested that 3 out of 4 children spend less than 60 minutes per day playing outdoors. It may be that the benefits of outdoors learning are not seen as clearly as they once were, especially with the ever-increasing danger portrayed in the media. But what are the benefits of outdoor learning?

Health Benefits

According to the Institute of Outdoor Learning, there are many benefits to an individuals health – both physical and mental. It is hard to argue that a walk around the local park studying local flowers or an afternoon noting the different fish species in a coastal rock pool would be good for you physically, we have all heard that sea air is good for you! Coupled with an activity as in these examples means you’re more likely to stay outside for longer as there is something to keep everyone busy, from collecting pictures and samples to recording the location or time they were found. This can all be linked together when you get home with additional research into what was found, either through books and maps, or through the ever-expanding information that can be found online (yes technology does have its uses!)

Other noted health benefits include improving your sleeping cycle, with a recent study published in Current Biology suggesting that a weekend of camping can reset the body’s internal clock, making it easier to rise in the mornings after a more consistent night’s sleep. Even if you do need to take some technology to keep you comfortable for a night under the stars, there is no doubt that getting away from screens could benefit a huge section of our society, not just our children.

Interpersonal Skills

Alongside the health benefits, there are also significant benefits to an individual’s interpersonal skills. The exact skills depend on the outdoor sessions but often include teamworking and practical problem solving. Take the example of the rock pool given above. Why not set a challenge to a small group of friends to collect 10 different coloured rocks from a given area in the shortest amount of time, with only one person allowed to collect a rock at a time. There needs to be an assessment of any risk but small games like this can develop a strong sense of teamwork, communication, and enterprise, with minimal additional resources. Another example includes blindfolded orienteering, whereby one member of a team is blindfolded before being directed through a course by the rest of the team. This can take place anywhere from the back garden or school playground to the local park and beyond! There are many variations on this to develop the skills further, getting individuals to use different communication methods such as developing a code through blowing a whistle – which can help improve memory!

This is not to say technology doesn’t have its place within society, far from it. As we’ve already mentioned, technology can be brought in to research the findings of a day out, or to find out the best spot to visit along the coast, or at what time of day… The possibilities are near enough endless! Alongside this you could utilise an individual’s passion for video or photography, a useful link to their “My Interests” JASS section. Next time you think of checking in online, take a look to see what you could do outside while you’re there!

JASS in Outdoor Learning

Many outdoor learning activities can fit in across the four JASS sections, depending on the planned activity in question. Some examples are given below but remember, there is no limits to what can be done, it’s all down to the creativity of the young person!

My Interests: A participant could monitor the wildlife in a specific area, documenting it and writing a piece on what they expectedto see and what they actually saw. This could be part of a bigger project such as the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch or the Big Butterfly Count

Me and My World: Why not build a bird box or bug hotel, or join in a community litter pick with your local park group or community council.

Get Active, Stay Active: The physical activity needed to maintain a garden shouldn’t be under-rated! This could be completed by joining a gardening club or even starting their own in the school (asking the school first!) Otherwise organising a walk for friends and family, looking out maps and making a picnic for everyone would be great.

Adventure: The blindfolded orienteering activities set out above are fantastic teamwork activities, which can be set up in the school playground or out in a local park or greenspace.

Do you have any examples of using outdoor learning to benefit young people? Why not share them with us.