Charlotte Mason built a great deal of her philosophy of education on the idea that children needed to be outdoors with nature. One of the most important box loads of curriculum resources a home educating family can have must be the one full of wellies. Some of the best lessons we have had are the ones that involve puddle jumping, snail hunting and tree searching.
There’s time to play running around the garden with a football, or with the girls hurtling around with dolls prams like some kind of pink miniature Ben Hur event. Rarely does rain stop play, which is a good job because we are getting a lot of rain!
Charlotte understood children needed time outdoors to help them not only appreciate the world around them, the beauty of creation and to have a good time, but because it helped them learn. She encouraged parents to let their children explore, to spend time peering at the beetle in the grass or chasing the butterflies. She wanted children to know and understand the nature in their immediate vicinity.
Today there was a robin on the garden fence, and another time the children might see a finch or a blue tit. They are learning to stand quietly so as not to frighten the animals away and to listen to birdsong and try and differentiate between different songs.
As they grow older they will keep a nature book and make nature lapbooks as Charlotte would have had the children she taught do.
Iona pointed out an article on an old copy of Natural World that her grandad had left for us. There is an article (that neither of us have read properly) that basically says children need more time in a natural environment to develop their skills and love of nature. But the panel of statistics next to the article are fascinating.
38% of 9-11 yr olds could not identify a frog in a 2008 survey. 28% of girls and 22% of boys aged 2-10 are overweight or obese. I assume this stat is significant as it implies not just a poor diet for so many children, but that they are not getting to run it off.
But the figures that I was particularly taken by was the 30% reduction in Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children playing in nature rather than urban outdoors. This comes from THIS STUDY (opens pdf) by Dr William Bird on how the natural environment can effect mental health.
This is coincidental to a conversation I was having with a friend the other day about how I believe psychi hospitals and units would do so much better with patient outcomes if only they had a few gardens.
The same research showed a 50% reduction in vandalism and domestic violence in families in towe blocks where there was a view of vegetation compared to identical blocks without; a 90% increase in people meeting and talking in green space compared to barren and 20% increase in children’s self discipline where homes had trees and vegetation outside.
A lot of this seems to me to back up all that Durkheim stuff we had to read in our student nurse days.
This view (and it is common sense really isn’t it) that children respond well to a natural environment with the space to run around a lots of things and creatures to see makes them happier and healthier plays into many educational ideas. It’s not just Miss Mason who saw the need to nature for children’s development. Maria Montessori saw the need for natural tools in the classroom. Children get to learn through using wood, sand, water and clay.