In-Depth: Outdoor Education in Singapore

Classrooms Without Walls: From kayaking a raft along the Ganges River to exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a science project – outdoor education offers students of all ages the opportunity to learn beyond the borders of their classroom. WhichSchoolAdvisor looks at how international schools in Singapore are embracing this way of teaching and encouraging students to take on unfamiliar challenges and develop lifelong skills.
In-Depth: Outdoor Education in Singapore
By Carli Allan
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Outdoor learning at Tanglin Trust School

“Let Nature be your teacher,” said William Wordsworth. Outdoor education offers children huge benefits and has been positively linked to children’s well-being, health, development and learning. It is called the great outdoors, after all.

At many international schools in Singapore, 'getting out there' is seen as a great way to learn – and teachers are championing outdoor learning for children in all stages of early years, primary and secondary education. Outdoor education has become much more than the annual residential trip, although these still remain an important and formative experience.

Tanglin Trust School and Dulwich College (Singapore) deliver nature-based learning in their Forest School programmes for students as young as three; Singapore American School uses its two-acre natural rainforest as a living laboratory for science classes; OWIS (Nanyang) teaches students in its sensory garden and miniature forest; GESS uses the neighbouring Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and its own rooftop garden for learning; and UWCSEA runs annual trips that start with a sleepover at school in Year 1 and end with independently planned expeditions in Year 13. This is a snapshot of the outdoor education programmes across Singapore today.


The rooftop garden at GESS

Martin Foakes, Head of Outdoor Education at Tanglin Trust School, explains the recent shift in outdoor education:

“Over the past 10 years we have seen a move away from educational school tours and trips where students have the chance to go and ‘see stuff’, and a shift towards a more experiential and holistic learning environment.

"It is often said that travel broadens the mind, and travel for its own sake is certainly fun. But by providing a more immersive and authentic experience where students have the chance to challenge themselves and reflect deeply on the experiences, we can take it to the next level.

“There will always be a need for international schools to offer those Instagram-able moments and ‘capstone’ expeditions to exotic places, but now we are getting better at weaving and connecting these outdoor experiences back into daily life when one gets back to one’s own home, finding better ways to integrate outdoor learning into the formal curriculum.”

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com looks at some of Singapore’s best schools for outdoor learning, how they have weaved it into their curriculum, and what children are learning from these experiences. Also, how can outdoor education help schools and students in the road to recovery from Covid-19? Read on to find out…

Next: A lesson in outdoor education: What is it?

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