Need a change of scenery? Take the kids outside. It turns out Mother Nature is quite the co-teacher, and the outdoors makes for a great classroom.
Just ask the Albuquerque Public Schools Outdoor Learning Team, whose vision states: “APS is a place where school campuses extend beyond the building’s four walls, where the outdoors is valued and utilized as an educational resource, and where community and the natural environment are integral to education. children.”
Did you know we have an outdoor learning team? If not, now would be a good time to learn more about the resources and support they provide because next week is outdoor learning week.
The APS Outdoor Learning Team cites research showing that outdoor learning:
- draws on students’ academic knowledge
- reduces stress and anxiety levels
- lowers heart rate
- increases physical activity
- helps students develop a positive sense of self and self-discipline and
- provides a supportive, collaborative, calmer and quieter learning environment.
Even in the most urban parts of our school district, students can reconnect with their natural world, earning respect for their environment, community, and culture, resulting in personal and educational behavioral changes. The students with the most to gain are often those with the least access to the outdoors and natural environments.
Outdoor learning is more than school gardens, although more than 90 APS schools now have them. And you don’t need infrastructure to create outdoor classrooms, although the state legislature has earmarked funding for two dozen new outdoor classrooms with an additional hundred requests for items such as shade structures and benches.
All of our schools have outdoor spaces within walking distance of most classrooms that can be used for learning.
Typically we link outdoor learning to science or physical activity, which makes sense. But it can be so much more. Everything students do inside a classroom can be done outside, often with greater benefits. For example, geometry students can measure construction angles. Art students can use natural light to create shade and shade. Language arts students can write about observations in nature. With 300 days of sunshine per year in Albuquerque, the possibilities are endless.
Additionally, APS offers several outdoor learning opportunities for students, including:
- All 5th graders participate in a field ecology program at the APS Sandia Mountain Natural History Center in partnership with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
- All Grade 4 students participate in the RIO (The Rio is Ours) program offered by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
- And starting this year, all Grade 3 students will have the opportunity to participate in the Community, Place, and Habitat program at Los Padillas Wildlife Sanctuary.
- The APS Education Foundation also supports outdoor learning initiatives through its grants.
The Outdoor Learning Team can provide resources, lesson plans, training, school garden support and assistance with on-site outdoor learning plans. Submit your request here: Request support for outdoor learning and enjoy a happy and sunny outdoor learning week.
In recognition of Outdoor Learning Week, Sept. 26-Oct. 1, here is a short video slideshow featuring some outdoor learning activities around APS.