We Have Forgotten the Invaluable Lessons Nature Can Teach Us. Return Children to Nature’s Classroom.

Illustration: The Express Tribune

By Azal Zahir at The Express Tribune: A meta-analysis published in “Environmental Science and Technology,” found that exposure to natural environments is associated with reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Spending time outdoors and engaging in activities such as hiking or gardening can improve mood and overall psychological well-being. Outdoor experiences can lead to positive behavioral changes, including increased cooperation, empathy, teamwork, and pro-environmental attitudes among students.

These highlight the multifaceted benefits of integrating nature and outdoor experiences into education and daily life, underscoring the importance of access to green spaces for overall well-being and academic success.

Education philosopher John Dewey provides an emphasis on ‘experience’ as a fundamental factor to progressive education. This means all education has to be positive, ‘continuous’ and ‘interactive’ for a true impact – something which E.E offers. From primary level up to secondary schools, E.E has to be a continuous and embedded experience. For instance, by establishing kitchen gardens students learn what it takes to bring food from the farm to the table. Include them in establishing the garden, so that they may learn project management, team work and decision making. Integrate it with the mathematics so students measure the plant as it grows and create calculations.

‘Rewild’ open spaces by removing manicured lawns and concrete all together. Invite all kinds of birds and bees through native and wild plants. If the premises has limited space, vertical and rooftop gardens are an easy and effective alternative. Bring students into this setting to inspire them to write their essays, poetry, to hold meaningful conversations or even to meditate.

School architecture needs to be engineered to include natural light. This will ultimately also reduce high energy consumption bills – two birds with one stone. Ask students to explore the area around them and ascertain how different architecture might better suit their local climate. How can we cool and ventilate our buildings with minimum energy consumption?

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Azal Zahir has a Masters degree in Environmental Education from New York University and is Founder of social enterprise Abadtak