Research shows that when students get outdoors, their learning expands—and their health, happiness, and sense of connectedness improve.
Outdoor Learning is instruction that takes place outside the traditional classroom, often in the natural world. It is a dynamic and experiential way to build deeper student engagement within our standards-aligned, grade-level curriculum. Outdoor Learning is a part of the larger pedagogy of Experiential Education which encourages students to learn through direct experience, in addition to text-based learning.
Studies show that there are numerous benefits of learning outside the classroom, ranging from mental health and physical well-being, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and academic benefits. Outdoor learning provides a thoughtful, culturally responsive, and innovative approach to meet the needs of a diversity of learners within the class community. Outdoor Learning ranges from holding morning meetings outside to systemic curriculum integration to engaging in fieldwork on and beyond the schoolyard.
Grade Level Examples
The Portland Public Schools has been awarded $250,000 in Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (RREV) funding from the state to support and advance the district's outdoor learning initiatives.
Nature-based experiences improve children’s health, sense of wellbeing, SEL skills, and academic performance. Studies show attention and focus significantly increase while behavioral issues decrease.
Increases Health, Race, and Environmental Equity
Given that many PPS students do not have equitable access to green spaces, school-based, integrated outdoor learning can help mitigate and diminish systemic environmental, health, and racial inequities by providing opportunities for learning within the school day to gain access and deeper experiences with the natural world.
Experiential learning creates deep learner engagement, develops important relationships, and increases retention of essential skills and information while promoting a cohesive and collaborative community of learners.
Place-based education enhances curricular coherence (i.e Wabanaki studies and indigenous worldview/ STEM), foster connection to place and community, and boosts achievement by meaningful and lasting connection to the content.
Vision for Outdoor and Experiential Learning
Our vision for the outdoor learning program in PPS is that it helps prepare our students to be environmentally literate citizens aware of the interrelatedness of all systems of life.
Our students will have a lived understanding of Relationships, Respect, Responsibility, and Reciprocity* and are prepared and empowered to collaborate critically and creatively towards designing an adaptable, innovative, and safe community for all its members and contribute to local and global solutions and well being.
* These principles as shared by Jennifer Neptune,
Wabanaki Advisory Council Member