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Backpacker Magazine – September 2008
Should outdoor education be a top priority in public schools?
Outdoor ed is often sacrificed when budget constraints–and pressure to perform on standardized tests–force schools to trim the curriculum.
Yes In today's schools, recesses are cancelled and virtual reality is promoted rather than experiences that get children's hands dirty and feet wet. But study after study indicates that kids learn everything better when they get out of the classroom. Inside, children use two or three senses–but outside, they're stimulating all of their senses at once. Research shows that outdoor learning boosts cooperative play and creativity and improves cognitive function; in a recent California study, students raised their science test scores 27 percent when they were taught outside. And if students do better on tests, that will mean more school funding. Kids can learn about recycling and global warming in the classroom, but information is not as important as a real experience in nature.
Author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
No My school falls under California's school improvement program. If we don't meet certain state and federal mandates, we could lose our funding and ultimately have to close our doors. Clearly, we have bigger worries than outdoor ed. Our first priority is to teach our kids reading, writing, and math skills. Of course, music, sports, and outdoor education help children develop. But considering budget restrictions, I believe if we can give kids the tools they need to be successful financially, then the rest will follow. We know teaching outdoors helps children learn, and we incorporate it when we can. But given the limited resources we have to teach the fundamentals, direct instruction often works best. That's just our reality.
Principal, McKinley Elementary School - Petaluma, CA
Results of a Backpacker.com Poll