Perceived Impact On Student Engagement When Learning Middle School Science In An Outdoor Setting
Human beings have an innate need to spend time outside, but in recent years children are spending less time outdoors. It is possible that this decline in time spent outdoors could have a negative impact on child development. Science teachers can combat the decline in the amount of time children spend outside by taking their science classes outdoors for regular classroom instruction. This study identified the potential impacts that learning in an outdoor setting might have on student engagement when learning middle school science. One sixth-grade middle
school class participated in this case study, and students participated in outdoor intervention lessons where the instructional environment was a courtyard on the middle school campus. The outdoor lessons consisted of the same objectives and content as lessons delivered in an indoor setting during a middle school astronomy unit. Multiple sources of data were collected including questionnaires after each lesson, a focus group, student work samples, and researcher observations. The data was triangulated, and a vignette was written about the class’ experiences learning in an outdoor setting. This study found that the feeling of autonomy and freedom gained by learning in an outdoor setting, and the novelty of the outdoor environment did increase
student engagement for learning middle school science. In addition, as a result of this study,
more work is needed to identify how peer to peer relationships are impacted by learning outdoors, how teachers could best utilize the outdoor setting for regular science instruction, and how learning in an outdoor setting might impact a feeling of stewardship for the environment in young adults.