The natural environment provides students with a calm and quiet place to unwind from the noises of the classroom. It nurtures and supports animal-life all year round. This is critical for areas where commercial and residential development is reducing most natural areas. Wildlife especially needs help during the cold and snowy months. Students can also see how it benefits the environment. It also helps connect students to the world of nature. Increasingly, because children are spending more and more times indoors, they are losing touch with nature.
Humans, because they spent their first 14,000 years in nature, have a special bond with the outdoor world. When they are taken away from this environment, through cities, lack of parks, no outdoor play, there can be psychological affects. When taking time to enjoy nature, children will feel better about themselves and the world at large.
We are also going to put a rock and mineral area, which will allow students to better study geology and related areas. Once again, however, this area can be used for other classes as well. Each of the rocks have different colors and textures, comes from different geographical areas, is used for various products and incorporated differently into cultures. Rocks and minerals also help students have a better concept of time of the earth's development and astronomy. Children are always fascinated by gems and minerals, because of the diversity in age, shape, size and colors.
Teachers who use hands-on learning find limitless advantages for helping them teach and encouraging students to learn. For example, teachers say that it encourages students to rely on the evidence instead of upon authority, such as an encyclopedia or a teacher. Students too often cannot make their own decisions and do not have practice to observe and make choices based on those observations. Teachers continually promote students who do not yet have the ability to set up a simple experiment with controlled variables, collect and interpret evidence, or make correct interpretations based upon that evidence.
Hands-on learning provides students with the same set of experiences so everyone can join in the discussions regardless of their socio-economic status or learning ability. In this way, special benefits are not awarded to those who, by virtue of their background, have a greater number of experiences under their belts. Such learning also forces student thinking by requiring interpretation of the observed events, rather than memorization of correct responses. When a text or teacher tells students that plants need light to grow (not really true) students simply memorize this without question and are hindered by false information. However, if children personally germinate seeds in the dark and find that these will grow taller than seeds that are grown in the light, they actually learn by doing. Next, the students can determine why plants in a house grow toward the light. When students carry out their own experiments, they become very familiar with the events and the variables involved. This furthers cause-and-effect thinking.
The importance of giving students direct experiences with materials, objects, and phenomena is supported by experience and understanding of how learning takes place. While information can be gained if taught through books and lectures, true knowledge and the ability to use information gained in new situations requires learning where students study concepts in-depth, and over time. Hands-on learning allows students to build understanding that is applicable and to develop the opportunity to inquire themselves, and to become independent learners.
We look forward to promoting our children's learning through hands-on science programs and projects in the coming years.
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Institute of Outdoor Learning. Website Retrieved on March 27, 2007 http://www.outdoor-learning.org/what_is_outdoor_learning/index.htm
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