There is a new trend in the U.S., especially in Early Childhood, called nature-based education. Although Waldorf is not an exclusive nature-learning environment, nature-based curriculum is a concept with which Waldorf educators are very familiar. Whether it’s hours playing in the meadow, science hikes in early elementary or a robust gardening program, Waldorf schools understand the health and academic benefits of nature study.
Like Waldorf methods, nature-based education originated and has been used widely in countries like Scandinavia and Germany. It is simply a matter of science. There are proven health and cognitive benefits to being out in nature. Such as this University of Michigan study citing a boost in cognitive performance after a walk in nature (city walks don’t produce the same results.) Or this study from Sage college scientists highlighted here that shows “ingesting or breathing in a common soil bacterium found in nature reduces anxiety and improves learning.”
Add that to studies like this one, which find that children do better on tests if given time for regular outdoor recess, and one can start to piece together the importance of nature in curriculum. But the groundswell of evidence does not stop there. In fact, The Children and Nature Network, offer an over-50-page PDF at ChildrenandNature.org outlining studies that prove how combining education with nature improves everything from health and well being to creativity, problem solving and literacy skills.
In a recent Boston Globe interview, Antioch University professor and leading expert in nature-based education, David Sobel, discussed his current research study, aimed at “directly showing the academic outcomes of nature-based education.” He believes an outdoor-focused education helps students develop independence and confidence because the environments are not “adult regulated,” which he hopes to prove gives children an edge in developing self-regulation and collaboration with peers.
There is clearly something going right out in Kansas, where educators took a failing public elementary school and turned it into a charter school for agricultural education. According to American Profile, not only did that effort save the school, but its student’s test scores now rank in the top 5% of the state.
Here at Spring Garden, like at most Waldorf Schools across the U.S., we keep nature at the forefront of the curriculum. Our greenhouse and gardens thrive with student-grown plants and produce. Our Early Childhood children spend much of their day outdoors playing and exploring in rain, snow and shine. All students have three separate recess times, taken outdoors in all but the most inclement weather. And main lesson subjects, along with (most often) science and gym, are often combined with regular outdoor learning. Learn more about how we incorporate nature into our education every day by visiting us.