What is pedagogy by nature?


Schools are increasingly integrating nature into their classrooms. Indeed, there is a great deal of research showing the benefits of integrating nature-based learning into education. Additionally, this research shows that spending time outdoors supports children’s cognitive, emotional, physical and social growth in ways unique to an indoor classroom.

Pedagogy by nature: the definition

You may be wondering what pedagogy by nature is. Is it a school built with leaves and twigs, located in the heart of a forest? Is it letting children play freely in fields and meadows, without any structured learning? Maybe, maybe not.

From forestry schools to simple environment-based learning, learning from nature can take many forms. It can be semi-structured or not. Pedagogy by nature exists for children of all ages, from kindergarten to secondary school. 


Semi-structured nature pedagogy may involve teachers framing children’s learning in outdoor environments. They provide educational materials that encourage numeracy, literacy. They also develop other important and necessary skills, with books and external resources. On the other hand, unstructured learning can take a rather ‘non-academic’ approach. Indeed, all outdoor learning is child-directed and play -oriented , with little or no adult assistance. What both approaches have in common, however, is that nature permeates virtually “every aspect” of the program.

Several key terms are used to define this growing movement:  

  • Environmental education which is a process that helps individuals explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving and take action to help the environment.  
  • Place-Based Education is a teaching philosophy that uses “place”—land, water, people, history and culture—as the starting point for learning.  
  • Nature-based early childhood education combines early childhood education and environmental education to use the natural world to guide learning through spending time in nature. 
  • Outdoor learning which is simply the act of teaching and learning outdoors. 

No two outdoor classrooms are the same. Learning spaces can be created in schoolyards by incorporating stumps, hay bales or other natural elements to create seating. 

Students can create nature journals or explore the local environment on a hike. Teachers can simply move their current curriculum outside or incorporate the natural world into their curriculum.


educational outing

The benefits of learning from nature 

Pedagogy by nature offers a series of positive school results. It also has physical and mental health benefits. 

Studies confirm what we intuitively know to be true: nature is good for children. The integration of nature improves school results compared to “traditional” education. Teachers report an increase in student engagement, critical thinking, and social skills. 

Research conducted by the Place  -based Education Evaluation Collaborative  has shown that place-based education helps students connect with their community. It improves their school results. Indeed, it helps them learn to take care of the world, starting with their own garden.


Outdoor education can provide a more equitable learning environment for all students. Indeed, it helps to bridge the opportunity gap for students who do not have access to nature. This is especially important considering that the pandemic has accentuated the disparity between those who have the resources to participate in after-school programs or the technology available to join a virtual classroom. 

Outdoor classes can also help improve children ‘s concentration and attention span. They also provide calmer and safer environments for children with a history of disruptive behavior. In addition, the students most likely to be excluded due to logistical problems are often the ones who benefit the most from being in nature.


While outdoor equipment can be expensive, there isn’t necessarily a cost if teachers simply move their classroom outside. But creating an outdoor classroom space can require creativity and originality, especially in an urban environment. 

Teachers at an urban school rolled out a green “grass” carpet on the concrete outside. They create an outdoor reading space. Another creative approach was to set up. It is an exterior “construction site”. Students work on problem solving skills with building blocks. 

Some aspects of outdoor education can look very different in a city park or playground compared to a suburban schoolyard. But there is common ground and both can have a lasting positive impact.

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