Empty Classroom Day – Taking Learning Outdoors!

Friday 6th July 2012 marks the Empty Classroom Day, a day where pupils will head outside to learn, and we would like you to join us! This exciting initiative seeks to uniquely tackle recent concerns, from both the National Trust and Natural England, that children are suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ and that there is an ‘extinction of experience’ when engaging with the natural environment.

The Empty Classroom Day is happening right across the UK, but was created by a collection of organisations who met at the London Sustainable Schools Forum (LSSF), all supporting learning outside the classroom, school grounds and growing. The day was developed to help schools benefit from outdoor learning and share their best practice with other schools.

Schools are signing up to support outdoor learning and to show that one class will be learning outside for one lesson on Friday 6th July. Pupils will be:

  • Doing their maths lesson in the playground
  • Making art on city farms
  • Doing bug hunts at nature reserves
  • Running races for school sports days
  • Bird watching in their playgrounds
  • Writing stories in the local park
  • Following maps in Zoos
  • Weeding in the school vegetable patch.

What are the benefits?

Learning outside the classroom can be fun, memorable and healthy. Everyone benefits from learning outside:

  • Young people will get the chance to learn in new, more relevant and exciting ways – in particular these can benefit those who find classroom learning difficult
  • Teachers will be able to broaden and deepen their teaching skills and subject knowledge while working with more motivated pupils
  • The school can use these new approaches to raise achievement
  • The wider community can benefit through involvement in, for example, developing school gardens of all kinds, leading to a wider understanding of issues such as healthy eating, sustainability and caring for the environment.

How does my school join?

Schools can sign up to the event by following this link:


For those schools that have signed up there are special offers for visits, tours, treasure hunts and lots of activity packs with ideas for what your class can do in your school playground.

We hope you and your school can join us on this fantastic initiative and that we can take learning outdoors together!

– By Sarah Simmons, NAEE Member

Nature deficit disorder in the spotlight

National Trust for Places of Historic Interest...

National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Are our children suffering from lack of natural experiences –  and to what extent?

This Friday from 1-2pm, The Guardian is interviewing the outgoing director generalof the National TrustFiona Reynolds, as well as naturalist and broadcaster, Stephen Moss, to discuss whether today’s generation of children are experiencing ‘nature deficit disorder‘.






Read the full article at http://environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/nature-deficit-disorder-2/

Kids and the Environment : Pioneering College Explore Nature-Deficit in Children

From Children and Nature Network & Learn From Nature | “My friends and I played outside all the time. It is hard to believe that children do not go outside to play every day like my friends and I used to do”…

For years, through its graduate-level Environment Based Learning (EBL) curriculum, Mary Baldwin College has endorsed the concept of returning to nature to engage youngsters who have been raised in a wired world. Psychology students are also exploring the so-called “nature deficit disorder,” and recently attended a lecture by the bestselling author who coined the term.

“My friends and I played outside all the time. It is hard to believe that children do not go outside to play every day like my friends and I used to do,” said Emily McElveen, a sophomore from Staunton.

photo description here

McElveen — a sociology major who hopes to teach first grade — and more than 25 classmates in Child Psychology 210 traveled to Charlottesville last week to hear Richard Louv, who wrote the national bestseller, Last Child in the Woods, and more recently,The Nature Principle.

“The talk was very eye-opening. It truly made me realize how disconnected from nature children are in today’s society,” McElveen said. “Louv kept the audience laughing with his humor throughout the presentation.”

Taught by Assistant Professor of Psychology Heather Macalister, the child psych class examines cognitive, socio-emotional, language, and gender development from infancy through late childhood from different theoretical perspectives. Students consider environmental and biological influences on children’s behavior and discuss implications for parents, teachers, and others who work with children.

McElveen recommends the child psychology class to anyone interested in teaching or one day becoming a parent. Assigned reading in the class includes In Defense of Childhood, which echoes many of the sentiments in Louv’s work. McElveen said the book’s author, Chris Mercogliano, makes a compelling argument that children are losing the ability to simply “be kids.”

“[Children] used to be able to express themselves and play outside every day,” McElveen said. “Now, kids would rather sit inside their house watching television, which does not stimulate imagination. Children are losing their childhood and their creativity.”

According to Louise Freeman, chair of the psychology department at MBC, being able to dive deeper into one aspect of child psychology highlights advantages of studying developmental psychology at MBC .

“Unlike a lot of places where you would try to cover conception to death in a single lifespan development course, we focus on three distinct phases of development: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood,” Freeman said.” This allows each phase to be examined in much more depth, so that students learn not only the classical theories of people like Piaget and Erikson but more modern concepts like Louv’s ‘nature-deficit disorder.’ It is a real privilege to be able to offer these opportunities to our students.”

After the Louv lecture, students gathered at Freeman’s house to share personal stories about their own childhoods and discuss technological influence on society and, McElveen added, “what our future might be like if we keep relying on technology to do everything for us in life.”

According to Freeman, at several times during his presentation, Louv spoke highly of the work performed by Mary Baldwin Associate Professor of Education Tamra Willis, director of the EBL program. Willis helped organize the sold-out Louv discussion at the Paramount Theater.

One of the first programs of its kind in the country, EBL at Mary Baldwin teaches educators how to integrate an inquiry-based outdoor education model into their curricula and how to help their students develop critical thinking skills, become better problem solvers, and gain an appreciation for their surroundings.

“We didn’t know any different,” McElveen said. “When it snowed, all of the kids came out to play in the church parking lot at the end of the neighborhood. We would build things with sticks or just play with a ball. We could always find something fun to do outside. “

Nature deficit disorder – a sense of place ….

English: Atlantic salmon. Salmo salar.

Image via Wikipedia

Wild salmon can navigate through oceans and fresh water because of their well-developed sensual memory of place. This sense of place drives the salmon deeper into the watershed. From fresh water to the ocean and back again to the creek of its origin, the sense of place and smell drives the salmon upstream to cross the artificial and natural boundaries that exist along its way.

There is no place on earth with more resources than this community. This region can forge a more sustainable and intimate relationship between human beings and the natural world — the mountains, river and creeks, and ocean. But it will require a serious commitment toward a new era of greater ecological awareness.

Read the whole post – click here