Strategies for reluctant outdoor learners | eePRO @ NAAEE

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Strategies for reluctant outdoor learners

In last night's webinar, Jennifer Bradshaw asked: I live in a very affluent area and sometimes we have parents sign their children up for various nature based or mostly outdoor programs and their children are absolutely miserable. Of course we always do our best to show these children the wonders of nature but there has been a few times where a child has made the program awful for the kids who WANTED to be there. Any suggestions how to handle this??

Great question, Jennifer! Here are a few tips:
1. Give reluctant children a leadership role. This could be something like "Fire Master" or "Official Stick Collector" or even just "Line Leader." You may even ask them to lead an activity or game. If they feel like they have a clear purpose and job, they may be more likely to engage.
2. Provide options and choices. For example, you can choose to either sit on the ground or sit on a cushion. You can either do the scavenger hunt first or the leaf inventory first. You can use the shovel or you can use the clippers. Giving kids a sense of agency helps them feel more in control, and thus more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
3. Keep your days as predictable and familiar as possible. Routines are a great way to do this! For example, always start with an opening circle in the exact same place. Always eat snack after you hear a story. Always sing the same song at the end of the day. Always return to the same sit spot. Routines and predictability provide kids with a sense of safety, and that allows them to step outside their comfort zone and take risks.
4. Be patient. It may take kids many days or even weeks to truly feel comfortable in a new setting. We don't always have the luxury of time, but try to remember that this may be a completely new experience and environment for some children, and they will need time to adjust.

I'd love to hear ideas from others! Please chime in.