From classroom to courtyard: P.E.I. Home and School wants more outdoor learning at schools
'I can be stuck inside all day … it gives me a time to just be outside. It's just nice'
P.E.I.'s Home and School Federation wants outdoor learning to be part of the official curriculum so that schools will get children outside more often.
The group will present a resolution to members at its annual general meeting on May 10, asking the province to implement weekly outdoor time.
President Heather Mullen said this is time outside of recess and physical education classes, and means taking regular classes outside.
She said it's an important break from screen time and it can help reduce anxiety and stress levels too.
I believe children, more and more, are not going outdoors.— Mary Kendrick, principal
"There's studies showing that being outside and engaging in nature can be very healthy for your brain and for your body," said Mullen. "It's relaxing. Even if you do it for five minutes or 15 minutes, it's a break from the screen."
The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the need to take learning outdoors, Mullen said.
"I know a lot of gym classes took place outdoors until the weather got too cold," she said. "The more we can be outside and not breathing the same air and sharing the same germs was definitely encouraged."
Outdoor learning very important at Mount Stewart
Mount Stewart Consolidated's principal Mary Kendrick is a firm believer in the value of outdoor time.
The school recently built an outdoor classroom space, which has a bed of gravel with stumps to sit on and plans to build an outdoor obstacle course, add trees and build a garden.
"For me it's very important," said Kendrick.
"I believe children, more and more, are not going outdoors."
She said there are many benefits with going outside, and a big one is that students calm down.
"I think it's probably about reducing the anxiety, and I think for children and for all people when they're outside, it calms them," she said. "It gives them a sense that they're in a peaceful environment."
'It's more peaceful'
Autumn Long is a student at Mount Stewart Consolidated and her class recently went outside to make coupon books for Mother's Day.
"I think it's more peaceful and it makes you feel a little bit better than being cooped up in a classroom," she said.
People may think being outside with the wind, the sun, and the birds chirping may be distracting, but she said being outside to do her schoolwork was fun and she got her work done.
Griffin Feehan said having room outside to do his schoolwork was calming, and he'd like to see more learning outside the classroom.
"It's good for the students and the teachers and it can help a lot with certain types of kids," he said.
"Other kids may want to stay indoors, but, for me and my friends, when we get the time to go outside we make sure that we spend it very well."
Chloe Walker agreed, saying reading outside is much better than indoors.
"It was quite nice to be outside for once in a while, instead of being outside for gym class," she said. "I can be stuck inside all day … it gives me a time to just be outside. It's just nice, on days like this too.
"It'll be more beneficial for all kids around P.E.I."