“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.”
Sir Ken Robinson, 2011
Definition of Nature Education:
The term “Nature Education” is defined quite differently throughout the world and often has many subcategories and educational approaches. Where I come from in Germany there are many differentiations such as Forest Pedagogy, Experiential Nature Education, Experiential Pedagogy, Experience Based Learning, Nature Related Environmental Pedagogy etc. There are certain principles though, which are commonly shared:
- Nature as a teacher and an integral part of the learning experience,.
- Education as a holistic process.
- Play as an essential element of learning.
- Focus on experiencing rather than solely gathering information.
- Love and respect for Nature.
- The realisation of Interconnectedness.
As Claire Warden puts it beautifully:
“Nature Pedagogy (Education) is a way of working with children and creating settings for care and education that embrace nature. It includes the educational environments we create, the process of assessment and planning, and the learning journeys that we encourage children and families to take throughout childhood. Five years after I started using the term, I have refined the definition of Nature Pedagogy through the process of doctoral research. I now define Nature Pedagogy as “the art of being with nature, inside, outside, and beyond.”
“Education is a blend of experiences, which draws on culture, community and curriculum. Everywhere I work there exists a unique blend of educational elements, which create wonderful learning spaces for children and young people. There are also spaces that are adequate, but which are not inspiring places to learn. These schools and settings tend to have invested too much in the functional aspects of tables and chairs, without considering that tables do not make a school; dynamic teaching and empowered learning do.”
Jon Cree and Marina Robb (2021) in their wonderful book “The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy” write:
What is pedagogy?
“The word ‘pedagogy’ is often used within education. Simply stated, it is the method and practice of teaching. A pedagogue walks alongside us, understanding learner’s needs and interests and providing relevant experiences. Nature Pedagogy/Education is the practice of teaching alongside nature and the learner. We are endlessly nourished by nature and have an inbuilt ’natural operating menu’ that is influenced by external sensory input into our vast internal sensory and electrical systems within the body.”
“Nature Education” sees education as a holistic, wholesome process.
- Nature as the classroom/learning space (whenever possible).
- A playful approach.
- Fostering of curiosity and enthusiasm.
- Freedom and motivation to explore and experiment.
- Opportunities for risk-taking within a supportive network.
- Facilitating multi-sensory experiencing.
- Encouraging creativity.
- Mindful awareness and engagement, promoting a sense of wonder and awe.
Apart from children’s developmental and educational progress, these methodologies support a greater sensitivity and connection to Nature, and with that a desire to play an active part in creating a more sustainable world. Nature education is lived and experienced education, learning by doing is an integral approach in all activities.
Experiences in Nature unfortunately are not part of everyday life for many families anymore. A changed society and modern living circumstances, particularly in urban environments, prevent regular contact with elements of the natural world, but this contact and direct experience is not optional for children’s physical, mental and emotional development, it’s as important as a healthy diet. Only in nature and the outdoors do kids encounter all four non-negotiable sources for their development: freedom, immediacy, resistance and connection.
Another important aspect of education in Nature is the sensory stimulation when learning outdoors. Through the simple fact of movement, rather than a sedentary position at a school desk, children get so much sensory input, supporting and motivating their learning. When we add different air temperatures, wind, sunshine, the smell of soil, the texture of stones, mud and tree bark, the buzzing of bees, just to name a few of the uncountable experiences in the natural world, it becomes clear how important the sensory aspect is in this approach and how beneficial it is to children’s overall development and learning. Especially children who find it hard to concentrate and sit still in a formal classroom environment can benefit greatly from Nature Pedagogy. Outdoor learning lends itself beautifully to honouring and respecting different learning styles and supporting children in their individual strengths and needs.
Other goals of Nature Education:
- Development of a strong immune system.
- Physical exercise.
- Support of gross and fine motor skills.
- Building self-confidence, independence and resilience.
- Development of problem-solving and self-evaluation skills.
- Development of all the senses.
- Sparking curiosity and creativity.
- Learning of values and key social and cognitive competencies.
- Freedom to explore and play.
- The realisation that everything is interconnected and how things and processes affect each other, most importantly the role we humans play in these interactions.
- The realisation, feeling and knowledge that they/humans are part of Nature.
- Time for rest and mindful awareness.
- A feeling of belonging, kindness, compassion and love for the natural world.
- A desire to live respectfully and sustainably in order to protect and nurture the environment.
- Becoming empowered, proactive and hopeful about the future.
This is a sample script from my “Mindful Nature Education” Training, which is a four-week course for parents and educators. The course combines the two elements of mindfulness and nature education and teaches creative and flexible skills both suitable for indoor and outdoor settings. It offers a wide range of skills in which we can support our children to learn enthusiastically while at the same time finding a deep and supportive connection to the natural world. Mindful Nature Education is a wonderful methodology to bridge the gap between our children’s awareness of global threats to our environment and their actual connection to the land and living beings around them. For school settings, there are many suggestions about how to integrate curriculum content into a Nature context with a large library of ready-to-use resources (worth over €200) including:
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN: SIGN UP HERE