Outdoor learning - so many benefits

April 19

Recent research has highlighted that childhood obesity and more sedentary lifestyles for our young people are on the rise. Analysis from the latest National Child Measurement Programme shows the proportion of children aged 10-11 with severe obesity has reached an all-time high, some 60,000 children at the end of primary school in England and Wales are now obese, of whom 22,000 are classed as "severely obese" – a figure that could bankrupt our NHS in the coming years.

It is hard as parents and educators to know what we can all do to help reverse these worrying statistics, however one way we can help could be on our own doorsteps. At our Junior School in the centre of Cambridge outdoor learning is an integral part of our curriculum - from Reception age, right up to Year 6.  It has the same value, emphasis and benefit to our children as our Maths, Science and English. 

Outdoor learning not only helps our children develop a love and appreciation of nature and their natural surroundings, develops their self-awareness, confidence and self-esteem and helps them to be more reflective and inquisitive when tackling problem-solving in real-life scenarios. It also – on a more practical level keeps them active and provides positive health benefits, physically and mentally. 

We see the impact within our School after these Woodland Explorer sessions, the children are buzzing from the minibeasts they have uncovered, their outdoor craft session, the birds they have seen or the den they have built as a team. It not only brings their learning to life, but it brings them out of the confines of the classroom and gets them moving. They come back to their desks with rosy cheeks and a renewed passion for learning. 

So in order to try and tackle this health crisis as a community my advice would be to get your kids to put down their tablets, get off the sofas, drag them away from the latest episode of Peppa Pig or Horrid Henry and get them outdoors with as much mud, fresh air and fun thrown into the mix as you can muster.

Matthew O’Reilly

Head of Junior School, St Mary’s School, Cambridge 

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