Most of us know that being outdoors has calming and restorative powers. We also know that it can reduce stress and improve mood. But did you know that it can also help connect us to one another and improve attention and focus? Research has shown that children who spend more time outside are healthier and happier, so wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring all of the amazing benefits of nature into our childrens’ classrooms? Fortunately, this is a very easy thing to do.
One of the best ways to bring nature into your classroom is to create a learning environment that’s filled with natural elements. Avoiding man-made synthetic materials, like plastic, and sticking with natural materials such as wood, cotton, and silks is an ideal way to bring nature inside. The neutral, soft colors of these elements will serve as a backdrop for all of the color and beauty that the children create. The children and their creations become the focus rather than the actual materials themselves. Mimicking the curved organic shapes found in nature, rather than using hard edges and angles, can also serve to bring the beauty and warmth of nature inside. This nature filled environment will not compete for your students’ attention or overwhelm them, rather it will help them maintain focus and stay centered.
Once you start to remove the plastics and other man-made materials from your classroom, you will surely feel compelled to bring in smaller natural objects from the outdoors for the children to explore. Pinecones, acorns, rocks, and leaves all offer endless possibilities for discovery and learning. These elements allow children to create, imagine, and explore freely. Best of all, they are easily accessible by everyone.
As the weather starts to cool and the leaves begin to change, it is the perfect time to get outside and investigate what nature has to offer. Surely you will discover a plethora of elements to bring into your classroom that will help create a learning environment that improves focus, reduces stress, and encourages your students’ natural inclination to explore.