It is anticipated that when schools return in August, outdoor learning will prove a popular solution as a means to negotiate social distancing. This is something we should warmly welcome and actively champion, way beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
For children, recent times have proven very difficult, having to adapt to the measures put in place without fully understanding why life has changed so dramatically, as well as the need for restricted contact with friends and extended family.
For parents, they have also had to adapt and respond to their new role as educators, who have worked with schools to deliver learning experiences from home environments across the country, as a means to instil a sense of continuity and routine.
The measures have enabled parents to explore green spaces with their children within local environments, however, that does not mean every child has been able to embrace outdoor experiences during this time, as a result of a multitude of factors.
Now, more than ever, there is a considerable reliance on technology as a means to bridge the social and emotional gaps for many key developmental stages for children. This is a topic many within the field of emotional health are greatly concerned about.
In many ways, children are learning to adapt to the behavioural rules of a new digital playground, which, by its very nature, prohibits the degree of engagement and interaction which proves so vital in support of the development of the whole child.
An Oxford University-led research project, which has explored the impact of COVID-19 on
families, found that 50% of parents are concerned about their child’s emotional well-being as a result of the restrictive measures in place.
This matter continues to gather considerable momentum, which has led to mental health experts writing to Ministers calling for children’s social and emotional well-being to be prioritised as schools and nurseries reopen, through the #PlayFirst campaign.
There is compelling evidence which demonstrates how beneficial outdoor learning experiences can prove. Most importantly, it is fun! It’s an opportunity to be active, explore and develop an understanding of the natural world, through shared experience.
It’s very likely we will remember a time when we gazed inquisitively at our reflection in a puddle, prior to jumping in with both feet, planting seeds in the school garden or making all manner of discoveries walking along a nature trail.
Such structured experiences and discoveries serve to nurture a child’s natural curiosity, providing inspirations which can spark life-long passions, educational and career pathways as well as healthy lifestyles.
We may also remember it was usually someone else who encouraged us to jump into that particular puddle or being encouraged by others to proceed along the nature trail to expand our learning horizons.
Therefore, outdoor play is also an introduction to new situations and engaging with others through shared experience, which support the development of identity as well as communication, negotiation and compromising skills.
Outdoor play supports the development of emotional intelligence, where a child learns to recognise and regulate emotion as well as resilience which form the crucial foundations to negotiate effectively whatever life may present in future years.
The Scottish Government recognised the fundamental importance of outdoor play who placed a statutory duty on local authorities to deliver 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare from August 2020, which has been subsequently suspended.
Nevertheless, the government remain committed to expanding entitlement to funded early learning and childcare as means to break down perceived barriers to outdoor learning and access to outdoor spaces.
An update concerning an amended delivery date is expected shortly, as well as a recommencement of recruitment campaigns in support of the Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland: Quality Action Plan.
Therefore, should you be thinking about pursuing a career in childcare, now may prove the perfect time to begin your student journey.
Whether you wish to study full-time or part-time, Fife college delivers a range of flexible courses to support you, help you realise your potential and pursue your passions with regard to providing high-quality early learning experiences for children.