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Outdoor School Lessons – Learning in Nature’s Classroom

A growing number of Germans are sending their children to schools where they spend their days outside, learning in Nature’s classroom.

A group of primary school children from the town of Niederahr in western Germany are marching two-by-two through a forest, singing happily as they go. Every Wednesday, these children leave the schoolroom to spend the day outside. That means all lessons take place in the open air.

One of the first things they learn is to remember what their partner is wearing, so that nothing is forgotten and left behind at the end of the day. “Johanna is wearing a pink jacket and a pink rucksack. If she’s not wearing them later I’ll remind her,” says Leonie.

Ahrsbach School is one of a growing number of schools in Europe experimenting with teaching children outside, a concept that originally comes from Scandinavia. “The Scandinavians began doing this in the 1990s,” says Marius Harring from the JGU Institute of Educational Science. “A third of all schools there teach outside.”

“Schoolchildren develop a different way to learn,” says Matthias Witte, leader of a German project to encourage schools to hold lessons outside. “In the beginning, the children were most interested in playing,” Witte says. “But now it’s about discovering new things. Even learning on one’s own has become much more important.”

Outdoor school rooms aren’t just about nature. Outdoor teaching can include excursions to museums, hydroelectric power stations or the baker around the corner. Ahrsbach School has been teaching lessons in the open air for three years and is planning to continue with the project.

“Spending a lot of time outdoors in the fresh air is really healthy,” says Hermann Josef Kahl, a spokesman for Germany’s professional association of paediatricians. He believes children spend far too little time outdoors.

Having reached their “schoolroom” in the forest, the pupils from Ahrsbach School, armed with small magnifying glasses, head out on a mission of discovery. “I think it’s fantastic that we can see so many types of animals in the forest and learn what they’re called,” says Leonie.

The next day, class teacher Kerstin Neis will go back over what the children have discovered and learned. Neis says her pupils are much better able to learn after a day spent in the open air.

Thanks – Bernadette Winter, dpa

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