From tree-branch tepees to bush tucker gardens, mud kitchens and even functional fire pits, primary schools are sprouting all sorts of nature play environments in an effort to better connect primary students with the outdoors.
But while nature play infrastructure grows, new research from the University of South Australia shows that teachers also need a knowledge-boost on how to best link nature play areas to the curriculum and children’s learning.
Conducted in partnership with Nature Play SA, the Australian first study found that while all teachers believe that nature-based play and learning can deliver huge benefits for children, seven out of 10 teachers felt that their knowledge and confidence was limiting their ability to fully embrace these opportunities at school.
Surveying teachers in 50 South Australian schools, the study found that the benefits of nature-based play and learning for children included:
- better mental health (98%)
- improved cognitive development (96%)
- learning about risk-taking (96%)
- spending time outdoors/in nature (96%).
Barriers to adopting nature-based play and learning for teachers included:
- limited knowledge and confidence about how to incorporate into learning or how to operate the class outside (68%)
- a crowded curriculum restricted their ability to adopt new learning (64%)
- a lack of understanding/support from others in the school (38%).
Australian statistics indicate that less than a quarter of children aged 5-14 achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day and spend just over two hours each day sitting or lying down for screen-based activities.
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