Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world into the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion. Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.
Richard Louv, Authour
Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder
At Pretty River Academy the majority of classrooms have a southern exposure with a view of Cranberry Marsh. Studies have shown that people with a view of natural spaces have experienced significantly less frustration and more enthusiasm towards their work. (American Psychological Society, 1993). Students and staff at the Academy benefit from this positive working environment, creating a happy place to be.
It was with this understanding that Pretty River Academy created an Outdoor Education Program. Pretty River Academy is located on a parcel of land that provides wonderful opportunities to learn. Why not use it to its fullest potential? With wetlands, trails, native flora and fauna to observe students are engaged outside providing them with hands-on learning in and about the environment. At Pretty River Academy, students in Grades 1 to 8 participate in Outdoor Education weekly. Time outside provides children with up close nature experiences. These experiences have proven to improve attitudes towards school and schoolwork overall because spending time outdoors is more often than not pleasurable, peaceful, quiet and calming.Other major components of the Outdoor Education Program include physical activity and of course, leadership activities and experiences. Providing outdoor survival skills instils a sense of self-confidence that is truly priceless and life changing for an individual of any age. Our Outdoor Education integrates all subjects such as science, language, math and environmental studies into the programming, which creates well-rounded individuals. A great deal of this information is taught through games (or what children perceive as “play”) where students assume the roles of various elements of nature, animals and plants. This form of teaching gives students a very different perspective and can be extremely powerful.
Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.
Our Outdoor Classroom is truly a stunning addition to our school and our community. Teaching outside stimulates cross-curricular work in a variety of subject areas. It supports and complements work done in an indoor classroom and provides opportunities for learning which cannot take place inside. Outdoor learning is more practically based which has been proven to be a most successful method of teaching as students see more purpose and relevance in first hand experiences. It is important for people of all ages, especially children to spend time in natural surroundings. Studies continue to indicate that exposure to the natural environment serves to calm students and have proven to have a therapeutic effect upon children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. This facility will enhance the learning opportunities of our students.
The creation of the outdoor learning space provides students and the community with play space, stimulating artefacts and arrangements for quiet gathering places where individuals and small groups can meet or just sit and enjoy nature, quietly. This outdoor classroom is unique in that it is located on the shores of a wetland with the interpretive signage explaining the flora and fauna of the wetland which is readily available and used as teaching tools to enhance the students understanding of environmental systems and issues.