Why don't intermediate teachers go outside?
Master of Education
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The benefits of spending time outdoors and connecting with the natural world are becoming increasingly recognized, with outdoor education gaining more acceptance and visibility in our society. Unfortunately, traditional schools in Ontario, Canada have not yet shown that they are well-equipped to offer all students access to the benefits provided by outdoor instruction. In my experience as an intermediate teacher, I have found that grade 7 and 8 students feel disconnected from the natural world, yet I and my fellow educators make few attempts to give them the tools they need to see how interconnected they are with the environment around them. In order to understand why other intermediate educators stay indoors and do not take advantage of the outdoor learning spaces and tools around them, I interviewed seven grade 7 and 8 teachers. The teachers all work for the same school board, range in age and experience, and teach in both rural and urban settings. Most of the teachers interviewed had never really considered the advantages of taking their students outdoors. They identified barriers to getting outdoors like curricular expectations, reliance on technology for instruction, and their students’ reactions to learning outdoors. In order for intermediate teachers to get outside to instruct their students, they will require professional development, including building their knowledge of the benefits of going outside to meet curricular expectations, and time to work on how best to integrate outdoor instruction into their teaching practices. Until the education system fully acknowledges the importance of students learning outside and better supports teachers to do so, it will be up to individual teachers to do what is best for their intermediate students and get outside as often as possible to meet curricular expectations.