Man laying in snow

Napping Outside

Cam Collyer, Evergreen Executive Director of Programs, shares what Canadians can learn from outdoor education around the world

Cool crisp air of winter has returned. And rather than retreating inside, we should be spending more time outdoors playing, exploring and napping.
Yes, napping outside.

This fall I travelled to Sweden to attend the International School Ground Alliance (ISGA) conference, a network that Evergreen cofounded in 2011 to share best practices in play and learning environments on school grounds. 

Children's outdoor napping area

While touring a local school in Malmö, I discovered the covered porch where kindergarten kids napped outside year-round.

It’s common practice, I was told, and leads to children having fewer colds and more energy during the day.

When I asked what they do during the winter I was told “wool hats and sleeping bags.” Wow, I was really struck by the different choices the Swedes are making than we Canadians are – in virtually the same climate.

It made me to think back to when I was a kid and watched this television ad by Canada’s physical activity promotion agency ParticipACTION that compared the physical fitness of the average Canadian to their Swedish (and much older) counterparts. Perhaps an update is needed for 2016 to show the comparison of our preschoolers?

Outdoor learning is alive and well in Sweden - a priority even. The team at the Swedish think tank Movium has been able to advance a national agenda (PDF, 8.3MB) in support of outdoor play and learning, mobility and independence.

At the conference, Swedish Cognitive Scientist Peter Gärdenfors urged us to look at ways in which we can motivate students to learn through inspiring curiosity, encouraging a feeling of competence and reaching goals together, rather than simply motivating with the incentive of academic achievement. It is a powerful reminder for educators to harness the power of outdoor learning to fuel the appetite for life-long learning.

We also heard from Mohammad Ariefuddin, a teacher on the Indonesia island of Java, on the important role of outdoor activity and risk play in learning at their school Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam. In this wonderfully provocative video you can see how the children appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in play that involves risk.

At home in Canada, we see signs of movement in that direction. More schools and school boards are encouraging play and learning outside and creating school grounds that are healthy for kids AND cities with elements - such as more permeable surfacing - that reduce the heat island effect and waste water flow in storm sewers.

The global movement is strong and growing and Evergreen will be joining our international colleagues at the ISGA Conference in Berlin in September 2017 to share ideas about some of richest and most diverse school grounds in the world. Join us!

Need more inspiration on how to bring learning outdoors? Be sure to check out Evergreen’s latest videos on teaching outside in the winter and using loose parts on the school ground. In Toronto? Come by for some outdoor play during our Winter Village.