The world’s best classroom – the great outdoors!

Curriculum based nature excursions proven to greatly benefit students

I was dumbfounded when not a single hand went up when the teacher asked, ‘How many of you have ever eaten your lunch out in nature before?’ The 30 students in year 5 were sitting there in the dappled sunlight underneath the coastal tea trees having their lunch break during an EcoXplore school excursion. Earlier they hadn’t even wanted to sit on the ground because it was ‘dirty’. The teacher later revealed to me that they have no grass, or any green space at their school, only concrete. She also mentioned that the general culture of the families in the area doesn’t really focus on or understand nature. I was saddened by the fact that these children did not have many opportunities to spend quality time outside, but I also felt very honoured and fortunate to be able to (however fleetingly) provide them with a positive experience out in ‘the wild’. As many of us know, extensive research (and just plain common sense!) has shown us the incredible mental, physical, social and emotional benefits of spending time outside! And it doesn’t just stop there. Wilderness and nature-based experiences have proven to increase creativity, reduced anxiety and stress and improvement of self-esteem. EcoXplore aims to deliver some of these benefits by providing opportunities for school groups, vacation care groups and individuals to spend meaningful time in nature. One of our focuses is how schools can greatly benefit from the curriculum based excursions. Not only do students have the chance to spend time outside, their learning is also directly linked to what they are doing in the classroom and provides them with the opportunity to expand upon the subjects through experiential education. Learning in the outdoors brings together the benefits of formal and informal education and provides meaningful education for children. By acquiring knowledge and skills through practical or hands-on activities students learn about consequences, develop resilience, and learn to take risks in a safe environment. Feedback from teachers (and students) has been insightful.
‘Thank you so much for our wonderful excursion yesterday. The children and the educators had such a fantastic time and your knowledge about the beautiful surrounding was tremendous. It’s refreshing to book an excursion which actively engages the children’s senses at once, whilst being outside and away from all devices! We had such a fantastic day and I will certainly recommend your excursion. We look forward to booking another excursion with you!’ – Josie Rune
But what’s even more exciting than the teacher/organiser being satisfied with the experience, is when the students love it.
‘One of our other teachers at school mentioned that, while she was on bus duty that afternoon, a group of the students were “raving about the day” and sharing what they had done with friends. They really enjoyed the dip netting experience and the soap activity.’ – Hilary Smith
Music to my ears. But this is not just about fuzzy feelings (although those are important too). Once again, research has proven that there are academic benefits of outdoor and environmental education. Just some of these include: improved classroom behavior, increased student motivation and enthusiasm to learn, better performance in math, science, reading and social studies, reduced ADHD, and higher scores on standardised tests. So it’s a no brainer really why EcoXplore feels so strongly about getting kids outdoors! We want kids to reap the benefits of being outside and also learn to love nature by exploring all of its wonders so they feel a connectedness, a sense of place, and a sense of pride of where they live. In the process we hope they are inspired and empowered to become stewards of the environment by promoting its preservation and conservation.

Our motto sums it up: Our planet. Explore it. Love it. Protect it.

—- Katie Meyer is the Director of EcoXplore: providing engaging, inspirational and informative environmental education tours for primary age school groups, holiday groups and birthday groups. The tours take place in virtually untouched bush land at North Head Sanctuary, Manly. School group tours are linked directly to the NSW Science Syllabus, the NSW Geography Syllabus and the cross-curriculum priorities Sustainability and Aboriginal histories & cultures (great for NAIDOC). If you are interested in ‘bettering and bettering and bettering’ our world and children, (instead of ‘biggering and biggering and biggering’) check them out.