I would like to start this session off with a few questions for you to consider. Your response questions to submit are below, but I do want to get you thinking about a few things before you start to view any of the video clips. The questions to begin our thinking are as follows: how important is it for children to get physical experiences (sometimes referred to as ‘real-life’ experience)? One would presume it is necessary, but what happens if children are not getting as many experiences as they need? Are our typical school designs actually hindering brain development in some ways? And, are there some schooling environments where children are getting beneficial types of outdoor experiences?
I begin with an experiment that was done a number of years ago. It is an experiment with kittens. You will see in this experiment that when kittens are not provided with certain physical and visual experiences, they never fully achieve ‘normal’ brain functioning.
The Kitten Experiment
From what you already know about brain development, it probably doesn’t surprise you that when a brain lacks experiences, neurons aren’t wiring together. And neurons have to be wired together into cell assemblies to perceive the world around us or to act in the world around us.
One group of kittens didn’t experience vertical lines, another group didn’t experience horizontal lines in their early brain development and as a result were unable to fully perceive these lines after a period of time.
What might that mean in terms of human brain development? What if young children don’t get a broad range of physical experiences when their brains are developing? Are they then at a disadvantage when they are older?
Here are some video clips that show educational environments whereby children are given ample opportunity to explore the world around them.
Kids Gone Wild: Denmark’s Forest Kindergartens
“The Land”: A Movie and Discussion about Adventure Play, Part 1 (start 5:20)
“Nature’s Classroom” – Forest kindergartens in the Tennessee valley
Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do
5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do: Gever Tulley at TEDxMidwest
The Benefits of Risk in Children’s Play
Japan’s independent kids I The Feed
Benefits of Outdoor Education
Outdoor Education and Nordic Friluftsliv
Arctic Outdoor Preschool
Born to Be Wild?
Outdoor Learning Spaces – Prospect Lake Elementary
The Outdoor Classroom at Central Elementary School in South Berwick Maine
Fifth Question Set
Question 1: What do you see as the biggest value of outdoor educational settings?
Question 2: Given the state of our environmental problems, do you believe more outdoor / independent education would be of value? Why or why not?
A bit more on playgrounds.
London Play archives – This Is Our Playground (circa late 1960)
Push for “adventure playgrounds” comes with safety concerns
Adventure Playground, Berkeley, CA