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Blog: Friday, March 16th, 2018

A Case for Nature-based Education

Nature deficit disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”. It is a phrase that attempts to illustrate how a wide range of behavioral problems are caused by children spending less time outdoors. He argues that our time spent indoors is leading to a disconnection from nature, which leaves us more vulnerable to negative moods and reduced attention span.1

Kyle Poehlke, a grade 7 teacher from Chief Dan George Middle School, believes that the indoor classroom does not provide the complete setting for students to acquire the foundational skills they need to succeed in life. They must be given opportunity to experience and test their learning in context.

Kyle is a teacher with a passion for nature and is completing his master’s degree in Nature-Based and Place-Conscious Education through Simon Fraser University. Through this program he has seen the power of allowing kids the opportunity to explore and learn in a natural setting.

When kids are immersed in the natural environment, everything becomes a teachable moment. The child is in a constant state of inquiry and wonder, thus learning is not coerced. Each child simultaneously engages in their own process of inquiry therefore, differentiation occurs naturally in this setting.

Kyle takes advantage of the natural setting surrounding his school and community by taking his class outside to learn in, from, and with the environment every week. For example, he took his class outside to harvest Pine Needles to make tea. In this one activity, he was able to integrate multiple subjects. In addition to physical activity, students learned about Indigenous cultural uses of the plant and the health benefits of the tea, culminating with a writing activity back in the classroom. Along with educational benefits, students are developing a connection to their environment, and an appreciation for the processes that our food goes through before consumption.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to bring kids outside is the mental health benefits that nature offers. Being outside provides calming and self-regulatory effects. We know that when children are at peace focus increases. Studies have shown that by engaging with nature, ADD symptoms often decrease.2

It is these reasons that Kyle believes that every teacher should seek to provide more opportunities for students to learn in their natural setting.

Vice-Principal, Chief Dan George Middle School

2. Kuo, F. E., & Faber Taylor, A. (2004). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580–1586.