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What the Research says...

Learning Outdoors is Effective

FOSS Outdoors demonstrates our commitment to get kids outside. Research demonstrates that using the schoolyard is an extremely effective way to enhance student learning. In fact, Texas A & M University, in conjunction with the Texas Education Agency, conducted a meta-analysis of science education research in order to identify and rank effective instructional methods for science education. The purpose of the study was to define how best to improve student achievement. The study ranked eight effective teaching strategies. Of the eight, the number one strategy was Enhanced Context Strategies. ECS includes:

  • Relating learning to students’ previous experiences
  • Knowledge or interests, e.g. using problem based learning
  • Taking field trips
  • Encouraging reflection
Using the schoolyard for lessons (Scott, 2005)

Teaching outdoors is beneficial not only for student application of knowledge but also emotional connections to their learning, which can increase retention of information. The research is consistent: integration of the outdoors in a child's experience enhances learning, general health and attention (Liebermann and Hoody, 1998).

No Substitute for Experience

By taking FOSS outdoors, you effectively turn the outdoors into a laboratory where children can gain a better understanding of the biological world through their own experiences. Oftentimes, the FOSS lessons will take you outside because that is where the concept exists. Reading about sun or weather patterns can not replace the value of observing conditions in your local environment, but it takes practice to effectively use your local weather and ecology as learning tools and to effectively bring that information back indoors in a meaningful way.

Benefits to Students

Many research studies suggest time outdoors during the school day is beneficial for student learning. Students that are exposed to hands-on experiences in their local environment often become enthusiastic, self-motivated learners and typically academically outperform their peers who do not have these learning opportunities (Liebermann and Hoody, 1998). Children are able to pay attention for longer periods of time on the same assignment outdoors and are more focused when they return indoors (Louv, 2008).

In addition, student attitudes toward learning are also influenced by simple outdoor experiences. In one study (Shaw and Mills, 1981) students who went outdoors for only fifteen minutes at the end of the school day reported they enjoyed school more in general and felt more supported by their teacher than the group that did not go outdoors.

Perhaps the most important benefit of incorporating the outdoors with the traditional school learning environment is it offers opportunities for students to synthesize concepts and personal experience by applying what they have learned to a new environment.