Happy New Year to all our followers old and new! This week’s guest blog comes to us from the USA , thanks again to Steve Cooper for writing something light and lovely to start the new year. View Steve’s previous blog HERE.
Dr. Seuss was right. When children are stuck inside, things will get wild and mischief is sure to ensue.
“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
Thus begins the childhood classic tale The Cat In The Hat. In this misadventurous story, two children are stuck in the house because of lousy weather which prompts mischief to ensue.
Dr. Seuss’s beloved book comes to mind when inclement weather confines my students to indoor recess. The children gaze out the windows as clouds gather overhead. With hopeful faces they ask, “Do you think we will go outside today?”
Harsh winds blow the incoming rain across the playground which triggers an announcement over the intercom, “Girls and boys, we will be staying inside today.” After a sigh of disappointment, the children retrieve their board games and puzzles then scatter in groups across the floor.
The first afternoon stuck indoors is a novelty and all seems well. However, two or three successive days of being restricted to the classroom, due to foul weather, and cabin fever begins to spread throughout the grades like a storm gaining momentum. With the limited space for exploration, boredom sets in and students wander from activity to activity without purpose. Soon there will be a surge of behavior related incidents and conflicts that spark over the smallest of disruptions. On such days, teacher interventions increase as well as the number of students who are sent to the office for being naughty.
When asked by parents why being in the outdoors is such an important part of our campus’ programming, my impulsive response comes straight from the gut. “If they can’t get outside, they get wild and turn into knuckleheads.” An education mentor of mine once defined the term ‘knucklehead’ as a good kid who acts like a fool.
The children at my school enjoy the benefits of spending at least 90 minutes each day learning in their natural environment regardless of the season. The only reason that we retreat inside is for extreme temperatures, high winds, or torrential down pours.
The teachers at our school view the outdoor spaces as a valuable resource and even as an extension to their classrooms. Throughout the year they gather the pupils on log benches to facilitate many of their core subjects.
However, at recess our students find the freedom to explore the natural environment at their own pace of interest and discovery. They engage large muscle groups by racing one another across the open fields, by jumping over stumps, by rolling down the grassy hillside, by raking leaves into mammoth piles, by climbing the branches of a maple tree, by tumbling hay bales to construct a fort, and by skipping flat stones for distance across our pond. They also stimulate their fine motor skills and sensory interpretation by mixing dirt in buckets to make a delicious mud pie, by stacking rocks for a fairy house, by weaving blades of tall weeds into a royal crown, and by sifting through the sand in search of treasure. With each trip out of the building, the children experience a greater connection to their natural world as well as benefit from a number of essential developmental components which leads towards greater health and wellness.
According to reports compiled by the United State’s National Wildlife Federation (NWF), playing outside supports significant advantages for a child’s mind, body and spirit. (www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Why-Get-Kids-Outside/Health-Benefits.aspx)
The NWF finds that playing and learning in the great outdoors helps:
- Promote increased fitness levels.
- Reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
- Decrease stress levels.
- Combat anxiety and depression.
- Foster healthy emotional development.
- Contribute to stronger social interactions and instills a greater value of community.
- Increase critical thinking skills and improved test scores.
Interacting with nature enhances learning, encourages physical development, promotes greater wellness, and stimulates critical thinking. Each opportunity to play outside allows the children to release bridled energy levels and prevents knuckleheaded behaviors.
So, as the rain approaches your recess, have the children don their wellies and slickers then head outside. And please remember the teachings of Dr. Seuss and The Cat In The Hat, “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny. But we can have lots of good fun that is funny!” If mischief is going to ensue, the best place to be is outside in the WILD.
This article has kindly been provided by Stephen J Cooper RN who also has his own blog, (https://wtcoopers.wordpress.com/), which includes photos of his recent trip to the South West to experience the Natural Connections project and Forest Schools. Steve is the Outdoor Education Coordinator, Physical Education, & School Nurse at North Hills Campus at Winchester Thurston, Pennsylvania.