Research shows that spending time outside can have numerous benefits for students, such as reducing stress and anxiety, increasing creativity and focus, improving academic performance, and promoting physical health (Mann et al., 2022; Fyfe-Johnson et al., 2021; Dadvand et al., 2015). Knowing this, it’s crucial that educators prioritize outdoor time and find ways to incorporate it into their lesson plans and daily routines.
Unfortunately, when the average student enters middle school, their opportunities to get outside tend to decrease dramatically. No more outdoor recess, a lot more time sitting during the school day, and less opportunities for nature-based inquiry and exploration. Middle school at Friends School of Minnesota is different. Our teachers understand the value of outside time and we prioritize these opportunities for students in our middle school. Is it easy to get middle schoolers outside every day? No, some things with middle schoolers are a little challenging and that is ok.
Some strategies we use to ensure outdoor time is more feasible and effective include scheduling regular outdoor breaks or class activities, incorporating nature walks or outdoor exploration into lesson plans, and providing students with opportunities to engage in physical activity outside.
Our middle schoolers have recess every day.
There are also other opportunities at FSMN for middle schoolers to get outside together. We go outside to learn, we go on field trips, and students can participate in our environmental action club, and outdoor club. By prioritizing outdoor time and creating a culture of appreciation for the natural world, teachers can help foster a love of learning and promote holistic student development.
Outdoor Club – One of the Ways We Spend Time Outside
Students in outdoor club go on hikes, go skating, sledding, biking – if it is outside they might attempt it. Each year the club does slightly different things depending on student interest.
In February, the outdoor club went snowshoeing.
Twenty eight middle schoolers and four adults went snowshoeing at Wild River State Park.
They covered 5 miles and 200 feet of elevation. It had just snowed and the fresh powder made it a bit of a workout, but everyone made it through to the end.
They took time to just stop and appreciate being outside. During one of their stops they heard an eagle and realized they were under a nest.
It was a perfect day with sunshine, decent temperatures, and plenty of snow and scenery to enjoy.
Being outside together helps us get to know each other and ourselves better and we always have fun.
Next month, outdoor club will go to Fort Snelling for our annual Maple Syruping trip. Stay tuned for photos.
Dadvand, P., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., Esnaola, M., Forns, J., Basagaña, X., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., Rivas, I., López-Vicente, M., De Castro Pascual, M., Su, J. (2015) Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 7937–7942.
Fyfe-Johnson, A., Hazlehurst, M., Perrins, S., Bratman, G., Thomas, R., Garrett, K., . . . Tandon, P. (2021). Nature and Children’s Health: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics (Evanston), 148(4), 1.
Mann, J., Gray, T., Truong, S., Brymer, E., Passy, R., Ho, S., . . . Cowper, R. (2022). Getting Out of the Classroom and Into Nature: A Systematic Review of Nature-Specific Outdoor Learning on School Children’s Learning and Development. Frontiers in Public Health, 10, 877058.