Updated: Mar 9, 2019
In a world where children spend most of their education cooped up in small boxes called classrooms, real-world experiential learning can be truly transformational for 21st Century youth. As Albert Einstein famously said "Knowledge is experience. Everything else is just information."
"Breaking children out of the safety of their boxed classrooms and encouraging them to experience things with their own senses, makes learning fun, exciting and engaging in a way that classroom learning simply cannot rival."
Let's be honest, sitting down in neat rows of desks day-after-day to concentrate on things like how to calculate the circumference of a circle or deciphering the literary works of Shakespeare, are hardly likely to inspire and encourage children to become lifelong learners with a thirst for knowledge, or even come close to preparing the next generation for the 21st Century future they are fast heading towards.
In a rapidly changing and uncertain modern world, driven by technology and globalization, children must be capable of far more than simply being able to count, read and write. Children need meaningful learning experiences, authentically set in real-world settings that are designed to purposefully mimic how the world actually works outside the confines of the classroom. Sitting in a room listening to somebody in a shirt and tie teach formally with a chalkboard, rarely happens in real-life beyond our school days (and frankly for good reason!).
"Children need meaningful learning experiences, authentically set in real-world settings that are designed to purposefully mimic how the world actually works outside the confines of the classroom."
Think back to your school days - were you most challenged and engaged by 'chalk and talk' teaching - or were you most inspired and learning best when you were doing hands-on projects with your fellow classmates? When you were solving problems, creating fresh ideas, collaborating with your team members and delivering results, did time seem to fly-by really fast? If so, you'd probably entered a state of 'flow learning;' an optimal state for achieving deep learning that promotes the absorption of knowledge and builds transferable skills (or so called "soft skills") in an organic way that traditional teaching methods have a hard time replicating.
Due to the prescriptive nature of most mainstream curriculum frameworks, and the high-stakes testing that we rely on to measure student progress in schools today, many teaching professionals readily admit that they would love to be more innovative, both inside and outside the classroom.
Teaching techniques using student-led and project-based learning (PBL) methods, for example, have risen in popularity due to growing research pointing to positive learner outcomes. However, teachers often feel there's very little time to meet the requirements of the curriculum, while building these cutting edge teaching practices into day-to-day learning.
"In a fast changing and uncertain world, driven by technology and globalization, children must be capable of far more than simply being able to count, read and write."
However, outdoor and experiential education (OEE) is a powerful way to fill this gap and inspire children to learn through a discovery-led approach, using hands-on experience. Breaking children out of the safety of their boxed classrooms, while encouraging them to experience things with their own senses, makes learning fun, exciting and engaging in a way that classroom learning simply cannot rival.
Combine outdoor education with project-based learning (PBL), and the lessons and valuable experience gained, have the potential to be highly memorable, authentic and truly transformative. In other words, everything that modern 21st Century education should be, if the overarching goal of our school system is to instill a love of learning and thirst for knowledge in young people that lasts a lifetime.
Have fun learning outside and we invite you to join the conversation in the comments section below!
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