Adaptive Learning: Rock Climbing

Yosemite 086

“When you’re on a rock ledge,” Willson says, “there’s a sweet spot of arousal and stress that opens you up for adaptive learning. You find new ways of solving problems.”

—Florence Williams, “ADHD Is Fuel for Adventure” on Outside

Forest Mondays

A stream in the Adirondacks
A stream in the Adirondacks

“Every Monday morning, the kids suit up for a day outdoors. Rain or shine — even in the bitter cold — they go out. They head to the woods next to their school where they’ve built a home site with forts and a fire pit.

First thing, the kids go to their “sit spots.” These are designated places — under a tree, on a log — where each kid sits quietly, alone, for 10 minutes. Their task is to notice what’s changed in nature since last week.

. . .

What her students gain from the experience might not be measurable, she says, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Her principal, Amos Kornfeld, agrees. He says schools are being forced to think about everything in terms of data and measurable outcomes, but he doesn’t need test scores to tell him forest kindergarten is working.

When the kids come back from the woods, they look happy and healthy, he says. “Schools need to be focusing on that, too.”

–“Out Of The Classroom And Into The Woods,” news story on NPR ED by Emily Hanford

Let’s Go Beyond Natural Playgrounds

A recent article on redOrbit presents some tantalizing research on the benefit of “natural” playgrounds for children.

“Children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds with metal and brightly colored equipment, according to a recent UT study. 

They also appear to use their imagination more.”

This is only one initial study, so the jury is still out on whether these findings are significant. But if this effect of a “natural playscape” is true on the playground, imagine the effect on children’s behavior if we changed their entire school environment to be more “natural.”

Imagine if we redesigned public schools to incorporate more greenery, integrated greater amounts of natural light, and designed pathways that alternated fluidly between open spaces for socialization and smaller areas for study and contemplation. Imagine if we consciously designed the interiors with colors and furniture to enhance mood and concentration. Imagine if we considered not only visible sightlines for all pathways and stairwells for safety, but furthermore considered the acoustic design of classrooms.

Let’s go beyond playgrounds. Let’s design public schools that have the well-being of children at their heart.