1-7 February 2021 is Children’s Mental Health Week. Launched in 2015, by the charity Place2Be, the awareness week seeks to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health, a subject that has never been more important than it is now.
While children and young people are not likely to get seriously ill with Covid and there have been very few deaths from the virus in this age-group, the pandemic has dramatically curtailed learning, opportunities to get outside and the chance to be with friends. A BBC News feature in January highlighted how these restrictions are affecting mental health and wellbeing.
Having time outside each day has been proven to benefit mental health and a plethora of studies have shown a clear link between taking part in outdoor learning and improvements in mental and emotional wellbeing in children.
How learning outside can support mental wellbeing
It makes learning active
Being outside the classroom makes learning active. As well as improving your mood and overall outlook on life, being active releases serotonin within the body. Higher levels of serotonin have been shown to boost cognitive abilities including memory and learning speed as well as reducing anxiety and depression, contributing to an overall sense of wellbeing. Exercise also increases levels of dopamine which improves motivation and attention. However, it can be hard to encourage children to exercise, especially on their own at home and during the winter months. Making learning physically active is a quick and easy way to support mental wellbeing amongst your pupils.
It improves teamwork
When learning outside, children interact and work together differently to when they are in the classroom. Learning outside breaks down barriers and improves relationships, growing confidence and self-esteem.
It makes learning relevant
Utilising different places and spaces within your lessons helps to make learning real and relevant. It contextualises subjects helping students to understand. When back in the classroom, teachers report increased productivity, better behaviour and better pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil relationships.
It builds relationships
Incorporating activities outside the classroom and home within daily lessons can also provide opportunities to unite pupils who are learning within school and those at home. Results from these activities provide opportunities to share what each child has done, discuss their achievements, what challenges they had to overcome and learn more about the wider environment where each child is learning. During our #BigOutdoorArtChallenge in July, many teachers commented on the unexpected benefits from sharing and discussing the activity in this way. Reflecting on the activity, they saw the activity as far more than just creating some artwork, the whole process was a learning and relationship building activity.
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