Study finds benefits of outdoor learning on children with autism – FE News


Research (@bizhealthy) on learning methods immersing children with autism in nature has shown great benefits for their education and development.

The study was produced by the City of London Corporation which analyzed its “nature learning program” carried out during the pandemic at Odessa Children’s School in Newham, east London.

The City Corporation, which had the work independently evaluated, examined the impact of the Nature Learning Program by studying the experience of eight children with autism and analyzing how these learning methods affected their development and skills. .

The outdoor activities aimed to encourage children to interact with the natural world through natural materials and resources, such as beads and wooden discs, tall willows set in the ground, a tarp hanging from a tree for make a tunnel, pine cones in a tray, slices of tree trunk to create stepping stones.

Activities parallel to this work included mud painting, planting seeds, searching for worms, and bashing flax fibers. Familiar routines, structures and visuals including songs, photos and written texts were used to ease the transition between activities.

The study showed that the main impacts on children were: increased happiness and well-being; help balance their emotions and energy; allow them to connect with nature; encourage children to demonstrate their knowledge; improve communication and social interaction with adults and their peers; improving their ability to perform tasks independently and increasing their confidence to try new things. The report’s findings will serve to inform future practices and will be shared with the environmental education community.

He concluded that the natural environment appears to play an important role in contributing to children’s emotional well-being and helps escape the over-stimulation of the artificial classroom environment, instead immersing children in sensory experiences. non-intrusive from the natural world.

Oliver Sells, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee, said:

This program was clearly a huge success and gave us great insight into the different learning methods to support children with autism.

“Being outdoors has huge benefits for our mental and physical health, and this work shows how it can also be beneficial for the skill development of children, especially children with autism, by providing different learning mechanisms for improve different skill sets.

“I hope that our work will support the development of other similar initiatives and lead to further studies on best practices to support the education of all children.

City Corporation Education Board Chairperson and City Corporation Open Space Committee Vice Chair Caroline Haines said:

“This program provides truly stimulating learning experiences for children at all stages of the neurological spectrum.

“I hope we can move forward and help advance other nature-based education programs to effectively meet the needs of children with autism.

“It’s exciting to see such innovative and creative work being done to meet the needs of all children. “

Shahin Paevez, teacher at Idessa Kindergarten in Newham, said:

“Teaching doesn’t just happen in the classroom through instruction, but teaching also happens when students are allowed to use their own initiative.

“The School of Nature has given language to understanding how teaching and learning occurs, especially when children have to deal with their emotional well-being, differences in sensory processing, and challenges. communication needs.

“I hope (we can) integrate the nature school into our traditional pedagogy in Odessa.”

The Nature Learning program was developed by the City of London Corporation’s Open Space Learning team and the SEND bubble teacher of eight infants with autism to create a Forest School style experience in the school grounds. The teacher wanted the children to be able to benefit from learning in the natural environment despite not being able to attend the outdoor learning program at the local West Ham park due to the pandemic.

Each week, the Learning Leader created a range of activities in the school’s hilltop neighborhood that enriched the space and provided opportunities to engage with the natural world.

This study hopes to inform the development of future learning programs from natural environments for children with autism, possibly expanding to other City of London Corporation sites and communities.

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