Joel Lleva Ebora / Dongyuan Elementary School



This paper aims to discuss the importance of conducting Outdoor activities particularly English camps to both teachers and students. This research has employed interviews and written answers through google forms to obtain essential data. Further observations were also made in order to strengthen the reliability of the study. The participants of this research were the former students of the researcher from Thailand (A.Y. 2019-2020, 2021-2022, and 2022-2023 respectively). The researcher, who is now a Foreign English Teacher (FET) in Taiwan, seeks to share some ideas and experiences which might help some teachers to conduct their own.




  Outdoor activities have been proven to help educators stimulate interest and significant skills among the learners. These boost the students' confidence as they interact and do extra social interaction with the rest of the class. Moreover, they explore supplementary learning what's outside the four corners of the classroom and are able to work cooperatively with positive attitude while enjoying and learning at the same time.

  Conducting an Outdoor Activity particularly English Camps, takes an extra effort as the teacher creates fun activities hence it targets numerous goals. But with its positive outcome, learners will be able to practice effective communication skills in order to do several tasks. Also, it is a great opportunity for them to acquire new vocabulary that will further develop the five essential macro skills. The researcher's experience on participating and spearheading English camp while he was still teaching in Thailand was undeniably another level of experience. Students from the Mini-English Program (MEP) vary inside the classroom which means they can still behave differently if learning will be brought outside their comfort zone. This, perhaps, would be another avenue for them to excel and develop aforementioned significant skills.


Research Questions

1. Which outdoor activities have already experienced by the primary learners during several English camp activities conducted by the researcher?

2. What are the effects of conducting such camps to the ESL/MEP class handled by the researcher?

3. What are some of the recommendations towards an effective conduct of this activity?


Literature review

  There is an enormous body of research available showing that time spent in nature can improve children's mental health and wellbeing. Likewise, a lack of learning outdoors is steadily resulting in a "Nature Deficit Disorder", where spending less time outside is suggested to lead to behavioral problems. By taking learning outdoors, we can combat Nature Deficit Disorder and increase mental health by improving mood, confidence and wellbeing.

  According to Cusworth (2018), children's lives are now far more stressful than in the past, alongside higher academic expectations, there are pressures created by social media use, which can monopolize children's time and attention, affect their body image, or expose them to age-inappropriate content. Many children are under more time pressure, more peer pressure and more pressure to succeed. Getting outdoors is the cheapest and easiest way to reduce this pressure so children (and adults) feel less stressed.

  An article published by St. Andrews International School in Bangkok, Thailand (2023) mentioned that outdoor education for children provides an exciting and engaging means for promoting effective learning. It's a dedicated and organized approach in learning that relies on special activities and resources that can effectively boost learning, environmental awareness, and psychological health and wellbeing.


What is Outdoor Learning Activity?

  Outdoor learning for children may be conducted onsite (i.e., within the school) or offsite (e.g., a trip to the zoo). Teachers can easily incorporate it into their school's current curriculum using minimal extra effort and resources.

2nd graders students enjoying the ‘finding-the-right-ball’ activity as part of the learning camp (July 2023, Thailand)

  Enabling children to learn outdoors can have tremendous benefits to their learning and development. It offers a variety of opportunities for them to experiment, explore, and learn things firsthand and contextually.

  The quote by Brooke Hampton (2000), “Children still need a childhood with dirt, mud, puddles, trees, sticks and tadpoles” is more apt than ever in today's digital age.

  This fledgling generation is exposed to a digital era and "plug-in" entertainment in their circumambient environment. It is incontrovertible that the new age or information age that they live in has a multitude of exceptional benefits and having access to these digital resources is an advantage. However, as impressive as the advantages are, it has led to the detriment of children's holistic development; that which is provided through outdoor learning as highlighted by Marais (2021), who purports that playing in nature supports children's holistic development and benefits their physical, emotional and social wellbeing.

  Outdoor play is essential for children's development, especially in their early years, and it's becoming increasingly popular in schools. Forest Schools and outdoor learning experiences are enriching and provide a plethora of benefits for children. Outdoor learning experiences on the school grounds lead to Natural Connections, which, in turn, create a culture of schools that embraces the outdoors as a positive part of curriculum delivery. Secondary schools that embrace outdoor learning ideas will significantly benefit pupils in so many ways.

  One of the key benefits of outdoor play is the range of sensory experiences that children encounter. Children are exposed to nature and can connect with the environment in a more meaningful way. They also develop a wide range of physical skills, including balance, coordination, and dexterity, in a natural environment. Additionally, outdoor play provides an opportunity for children to take reasonable risks and challenge themselves, which is essential for healthy child development.

  Outdoor play has a significant impact on children's development, and it should be emphasized in schools. An environment that values and encourages outdoor play leads to a culture of educating the whole child, embracing the philosophy of Natural Connections, and providing children with essential skills needed to succeed in school and beyond.

A game where students should toss the ball towards the plastic bottles in order to go to the next level for reading and vocabulary game (October 2020, Thailand)


The Learning Environment and the Impact of Technology

  Today, technology becomes a great help and at the same time serves as one of the opponents of bringing up effective learning among children. The paradox of this fact is of a great challenge to the both teachers and parents on how they will maintain balance of using technology especially with children who depends on tools as their preference of learning.

The Grade 1 and 2 students preparing to go to the site for the English Camp (August 2022, Thailand)

  Generation Alpha is the generation following Generation Z and currently includes all children born in or after 2010 which is the same year that the iPad was released. This is the first generation of children who will never be exposed to a time when social media did not exist and they are far more technically perspicacious than any preceding generation, which is a dynamic tool that can change civilization in innumerable progressive ways (Cottrell, 2022).

  With all things considered, as technological devices are becoming increasingly accessible, the amount of time that children spend outside actively playing has decreased significantly. Hence, modern-day children spend extensively less time outside than did children in preceding generations (Anderson-McNamee & Bailey, 2010).

Friedman et. al. (2022), concurs that outdoor play is essential for healthy development, especially in children's early years as being energetic outside, provides children with invaluable experiences that can directly influence their physical and emotional development, social skills, creativity and even their intelligences. Poppell & Monroe 2017, firmly state that decreased interactions with nature can harm children's physical health and cognitive development and create a gap between children and their environment. According to Wyver 2019, there is converging evidence that repetitive exposure to high quality, amorphous outdoor play opportunities have a positive impact on social and cognitive development.


The Outdoor Activities during and after Pandemic

  With the emerge of the pandemic, the entire educational system has to adjust all the methods, approaches, channels and means in order to still deliver learning. Face-to-face interaction was no place for a couple of years or three thus outdoor activities were prohibited.

  Another key point is that Generation Alpha are some of the first generation born into the COVID-19 pandemic, hence they will be more diverse than any other generation (Cottrell, 2022). The COVID19 pandemic flabbergasted the world and it was with incredulity that every part of life even the mundane was disrupted on a national and global scale, as it unnerved the fabric of human existence as we knew it. As multiple challenges were being faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was further compounded by the closure of schools, which had a ripple effect in health, social and the holistic well-being of children internationally.

  The novel virus impacted Early Childhood Education outcomes and Care (ECEC) and Hobbs & Bernard (2021), correspondingly state that it impacted pre-school children in several ways, including cognitive development, social, emotional and behavioral development and mental health, primary school readiness (communication and language development; personal, social and emotional development; and literacy) and physical development.

  To manage the unprecedented time of COVID-19, in terms of education outcomes, the shift to online learning was implemented and this was not apposite for learners in the early years as this method of teaching and learning is not adequate for their stage of development. Parents, guardians and caregivers precipitously assumed the role of educators. Consequently, as most of them are not teachers, and many are unfamiliar with the educational programmers' content and pedagogical tools, this further disadvantaged children during lockdown [OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19) 2020].

An art activity from another learning station which lets the students draw, color and create their crafts (July 2023, Thailand)

  As stated by Hobbs & Bernard (2021), concerns were raised by academics about the minimal opportunities for children to play and participate in physical activity due to pandemic restrictions. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the unequal access to green spaces by diverse populations and the percentage of families with no access to gardens or communal spaces and parental time constraints coupled with the fact that parents also made the transference to working online.


Taking the risks, Proper Planning and Challenge of Conducting Outdoor Activities

  On the other hand, educational institution must also take into consideration some of the risk factors of conducting outdoor activities such as camps. Every situation should be studied carefully and everyone should be ready for any unexpected outcomes.

  The researcher's experience on this matter has made him realize that any school activities made outside the premise of the school is under the responsibility of not only a single person. A clear and constant communication between the school and the parents is very essential and crucial part of this undertaking. An agreement allowing the parent's child to join such activities should be made as an indication that there is a consent asked from the parent. Thus, this is also a gesture of respect that any curricular and extra activities held by the school, the parents are part of the program towards the child's development.

Some of the happy faces from the participants of the camp after doing the English relay (July 2023, Thailand)

  Designing activities will of course be depending on the capabilities of the learners. Such activities from the very basic up to the challenging once varies on their learning background, age, and objectives aimed by the school buddy.

  The importance of taking risks is further elucidated by Marais (2021), who states that challenging natural spaces promote risk assessment skills while building confidence and proficiency and developing resilience. Warden (2020) is synchronized with Marais (2021), view in that young children need challenge and risk within a framework of security and safety. Children need to set and meet their own challenges, become aware of their limits and push their abilities (at their own pace). As a results, children will learn through trial and error and experience the gratification of feeling capable and competent and like a butterfly their wings will unfold. The following quote is felicitous in this respect, "If you want a butterfly world, don't step on the caterpillar" (The Metaphor of Metamorphosis, 2021).

The figure shown above shows a creative graphical representation of the role of the Outdoor Play and Learning (OPL) in school where every stakeholder plays an important and crucial role on bringing this to success. In addition, it shows the benefits to the school and mainly to the learners while taking different factors into a well consideration.


*Find out the findings, discussions, conclusions and recommendations of this research from the certain English camps spearheaded and participated by the researcher on the next part of this article.



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