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Embracing Nature: The Importance of Outdoor Education

In our technology-driven world, children are spending more time in front of screens and less time outdoors. Studies  indicate that the average child spends about seven hours a day on screens, but only 4-7 minutes outside.  This shift towards indoor activities has significant consequences on children's cognitive, social, and physical development. Unlike traditional classroom settings, Elevate Community School offers a progressive educational model combining Montessori curriculum with an emphasis on outdoor education. This environmental focus provides children a natural and stimulating learning environment that promotes overall well-being. This Is How We Elevate Outdoor Education Montessori education is designed to foster independence, creativity, and a lifelong love of learning.  A main component of this approach is the inclusion of outdoor play.  At Elevate Community School, children spend 2 hours outside every day, a stark contrast to the limited time many children spend outside in other educational settings.  This outdoor time isn't just recess; it's a pivotal opportunity for children to connect with the natural environment while developing key cognitive and social skills. Children are inspired to explore, create, and engage with their peers. The benefits are clear—improved focus, creativity, physical health, and social skills—making outdoor education a vital part of any child's learning journey and equipping them with essential life skills for a more holistic development. Combining Outdoor Education With Montessori Curriculum The cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy is the 3-hour work cycle which supports cognitive and personal development. Unlike traditional classrooms, where learning is segmented into shorter periods, the Montessori approach allows children to dive deep into their work without frequent interruptions.  When children know they have ample time to explore, they are more likely to invest themselves in their work and find joy in learning. This uninterrupted block fosters independence, strengthens focus, and leads to a sense of accomplishment when they complete their tasks.  Children explore and engage with materials of their choosing, with lessons given to individuals and small groups. The extended time allows children to delve deeply into their work without constant interruptions, fostering focus and independence. This extended time is crucial for children to fully engage in their tasks, whether indoors or outdoors. The Benefits of Outdoor Education Improved Executive Function:  Time spent outdoors helps children develop executive function skills like planning, problem-solving, and self-regulation. The freedom to explore and make choices in nature encourages them to take initiative and think critically. Enhanced Socialization:  Outdoor environments provide ample opportunities for unstructured play, which promotes socialization. Children learn to negotiate, take turns, assert their needs, resolve conflicts, and practice leadership—all essential life skills. Increased Appreciation for Nature:  Spending time outdoors fosters a deep connection with the natural world, inspiring a sense of stewardship. This appreciation for nature can lead to environmentally conscious behaviors as children grow. Improved Well-being:  Access to nature has been shown to reduce stress levels, improve attention, and enhance overall well-being. The calming effects of the natural environment can help children feel more at ease, contributing to better behavior and focus in the classroom. Boosted Physical and Mental Health:  Extended outdoor play, with 60+ minutes of unstructured time, improves physical and mental health. Children engage in a variety of activities that build gross and fine motor skills, and the physical movement reduces symptoms of ADHD and improves overall concentration. Sensory Stimulation: Nature engages various sensory systems in ways that indoor environments cannot. The sights, sounds, and textures of the outdoors offer subtle, gentle, and restorative sensory feedback. This sensory stimulation helps children relax and rejuvenate, leading to better focus and mood. Enhanced Creativity: Outdoor play allows children to use their imagination without the constraints often found indoors. The lack of rigid rules and structured activities gives them the freedom to be creative and explore new ideas. Outdoor Education Has a Positive Impact on Children’s Well-Being Outdoor education has a profound impact on a child’s development. Time spent outdoors can restore mental and physical functioning, improve eyesight, and even combat the rising rates of myopia among children . Movement throughout the school day, not just in organized sports after school, helps children concentrate better and reduces behavioral issues. Furthermore, outdoor education has been linked to improved social skills. Unstructured play in nature encourages children to work together, communicate effectively, and navigate social dynamics without adult interference. This real-world practice is more effective than traditional classroom role-playing, leading to stronger social bonds and better conflict resolution skills. For a day in the life at Elevate and to see our outdoor journeys in action, follow @elevatecommuintyschool on Instagram!

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