Saturday, 2 October 2010

What does Outdoor Learning have to do with Engagement?

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"I listened to your CD, cheering occasionally - utterly agreeing with every word." Sue Palmer

When I first formed Attitude Matters, I knew several things about children' engagement. One of them was that in order to engage, they needed a foundation that allowed them to do so. In fact you would think that such a foundation was natural - and indeed it is - or rather was!

For 25 years I have worked with parents to increase their children's chances of engaging in their learning. I have tried to help them understand that the lifestyle they choose for their children will determine those chances.

Engagement has to do with the whole child.

When I talk about a child's healthy engagement, I mean of the whole child - artistically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically - to name just a few! And the foundation for this is the child's senses. They need development, their perceptions need to be cared for and refined.

Without the depth of experience a child's range of opportunities for engagement become limited. They begin to rely on an immature grasp of their world. We find lots of children, for example, having difficulty being able to empathise as they get older.

Why do they find it hard to cross that emotional bridge between themselves and another? It can be the case that young children miss out on really important developing experiences. Perhaps they did not have the chance to play with, love and care for young animals; they did not spend time playing in a fully imaginative world where everything spoke to everything else - where the flowers spoke to Teddy and where Teddy spoke to the toy truck.

So often they may also have missed out on the riches of being with nature - of playing, discovering, exploring - of being a part of that network of bio-diversity where everything really does intertwine and speak to everything else. They need a constant, deep and growing relationship with nature and with their loved ones, building a rich network of experiences upon which their inner world is founded.

The lifestyle we choose for our children determines the extent to which they can engage. 

There are key elements in our children's experience which help them to engage in their learning positively. One of these is providing them with rich opprtunities to be with nature, to be outdoors. They need to play outdoors, explore outdoors and love outdoors. The lifestyle we choose for our children determines the extent to which they can engage. 


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