Out of the Box, Into the Green: Exploring the Experience of Neurodivergent Students Learning Outdoors
Amidst the rapid digitisation and reduction of nature-based experiences for children in the UK, this research explores the transformative potential of outdoor learning to create equitable and inclusive learning environments for autistic students. It responds to the post-pandemic educational challenges, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals SDG4 and SDG10, by offering a refreshing perspective on pedagogical strategies that champion inclusivity and equality.
Utilising case study methodology, this study provides in-depth description of the process and impact of outdoor learning activities for students aged 15-17 in a special school setting. Data is collected through various formats capturing different facets of the educational experience through photographs, staff reflections, parent feedback, student conversations, and tangible evidence of student work. Evidence is organised using topic boards, professional reflections, and versatile digital platforms, ensuring a multi-dimensional view of the learning process.
The study reveals that outdoor learning experiences are particularly beneficial for students with both Autism and ADHD. We observed a significant reduction in impulsive behaviours, an increase in task completion, and an overall improvement in student engagement. The activity of learning outdoors was perceived as rewarding, fostering a sense of anticipation and excitement among the students. Thus, by integrating outdoor learning into the regular curriculum, we propose a strategy that counters the concerning trend of nature-deficit, fostering a learning environment that is not only more equitable and inclusive but also more conducive to the holistic development of students.
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