Back to the Future….. and back to the classroom….or not?
In 1985, the year the movie ‘Back to the Future’ was released, I was a skinny red-headed 14 year old who was desperately trying to be as cool as I thought Michael J. Fox was at the time (I had a skateboard, walkman and wanted a Delorean). At the end of the film, the flying time machine zooms off to 2015 and that story becomes ‘Back to the Future 2’. “Roads? Where we are going we don’t need roads…”
Well, here we are – 2015 has arrived (feeling old?) and where is my flying car and hoverboard? A huge and ever increasing amount of change has occurred since 1985 and it led me to thinking about some very important things that have changed – especially for the children of this country.
That skinny 14 year old of 1985 spent most of his play time outside. Living on the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park as a kid I had a huge playground of creeks, caves, trees, tracks and campgrounds to explore. I rode my bike everywhere and enjoyed outdoor activities with family, friends and the local scouts.
Was this your childhood? Do you have fond memories of catching tadpoles and climbing trees? I would love to hear of your favourite outdoor childhood activity – please make a comment below….
Do kids today have the same experiences? Do your kids play outdoors as much as you did? For most of us, the answer is no.
A generational change in the way our children play in the outdoors has happened while most of us were not paying attention. According to Planet Ark Research – in 2011:
“1 in 10 Aussie kids play outside once a week or less.”
“73% of respondents played outdoors more often than indoors when they were young compared to only 13% of their children”
“72% of respondents played outside every day as kids compared to only 35% of their children”
The benefits of outdoor play are enormous including improvements in creativity, critical thinking, concentration and academic performance. Who would of thought huh? Releasing children from the confines of a classroom can actually help their performance in the classroom….!!! Whhaaaaa? Ok – kids lets hit the forest – NOW!
Outdoor time in natural environments has been shown to reduce stress and depression and has the physical benefits of reducing obesity and myopia. You may have heard of the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ – coined by author Richard Louv – from his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’.
Without a strong connection to the natural world – how will this generation grow up to look after it? Now more than ever we need strong, innovative, brave and intelligent environmental leaders.
I gleaned this research and know how from a fantastic teacher resource developed by Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre called “Plugging into Nature”. This professional development course will help you connect your students to nature using technology – and has some excellent ideas and non-classroom tactics for engagement.
Of course many of us do not need research to tell us that we all benefit from quality time in nature. However – as educators we have to deal with all the clutter of syllabuses, exams and the hectic life of modern schools. Where do we find the time to take our class outside?
Our mandate as Environmental Education Centres is to cure this terrible problem of nature deficit disorder! We are up to the task and take as many children as we can each year into nature for quality learning experiences. Unfortunately we are few (only 25 in NSW) and children are many! Many schools and teachers are leading students into outdoor experiences and connecting them to the amazing natural world and we hope that you all will enter this year with plans to engage outside the classroom.
Have you booked an excursion to your local Environmental Education Centre yet!!!! We would love to see you and your students – let’s change those appalling figures from our supposedly ‘outdoor’ nation and reconnect ourselves and our kids to this incredible planet we live on.