Outdoor Learning at OWIS Nanyang and Its Benefits

Michelle Dickinson
Updated on
May 4, 2021

At OWIS Nanyang, we are proud of the fact that we offer 32,000 square meters of learning space — which includes several outdoor nature classrooms. These innovative classrooms allow students to spend time learning in a natural environment, as they enjoy the benefits of fresh air and activity. These outdoor nature classrooms have been designed specifically to inspire curiosity by giving students the space they need to roam, explore and make their own discoveries. From our berms and sandpit, to our nature garden, we offer students unique and interesting spaces to grow. Our outdoor classrooms allow our learners to foster a love of the environment while making connections between their own lives and the natural world that surrounds them.

OWIS's miniature forest is lush with native rainforest plants
OWIS's miniature forest is lush with native rainforest plants

Miniature Forest

The miniature forest at OWIS Nanyang is a beautiful display of native Rainforest plants. This “Living Library” is full of knowledge at the cost of a look. When primary students take time to experience the miniature forest and all that it offers, they begin to recognise the value of the natural world in their lives. This recognition turns to appreciation, which in turn forges a bond and a sense of stewardship that underscores the need to protect the environment from harm and preserve it for future generations.

It helps our students understand how vast the natural world is while being able to experience their own personal slice of it here at OWIS. They will see the miniature forest change through the year. They will watch it breathe with the seasons and watch it grow, just like they do. The flora and fauna will change as the years go by and they will learn to appreciate how change is all around us. It is a calming, serene area where they can fully immerse themselves in the natural world.   

There is a footpath that winds its way through the Miniature Forest, guiding the students in their exploration. As they wind their way among the native plants, curiosity is piqued and a keen interest develops. We encourage our students to ask questions and to research information about the plants and ecosystems that our forest holds. We teach them to monitor changes to the forest. We give them the skills and knowledge so that when they return home, they are more aware of the natural world around them. Our Miniature Forest is truly a remarkable experience for students in our primary block.

Hands-On Farm

Is there much in the world that is quite as satisfying as growing one’s own food? Watching nature at her very best, as she takes the smallest of seeds and yields a healthy harvest for the gardener, makes OWIS Nanyang’s Hands-on Farm yet another exciting aspect of our Early Childhood Nature Classroom.

Our farm allows students to not only play in the dirt but observe the evolution of plant life from seed to harvest. Our verdant and lush green gardens deepen the understanding of science as well as food and nutrition. This is an area that can interlink with our studies in the classroom. We can combine learning experiences, both academically and practically. Our students are able to take proud ownership and appreciate the fruits of their labour. They gain a stronger understanding of where food comes from, the challenges that can present when growing and harvesting, as well as how diverse the world of farming can be. A mighty lesson indeed.

Berms and Sandpit

Nature is about so much more than simply observation. Nature concerns our very lives at its core. It is what balances our world and sustains our environment. It also provides plenty of opportunities to play and have fun. Our Berms and Sandpit provide areas to climb, slide, tumble and delight. Through play, our children develop skills, dexterity, athletic movement, and so much more. They problem-solve and question the environment around them. They learn that the world is their playground.  Your child’s sensory nerves will be pampered through the different textures, colours, and shapes of the green grass, sand and hills. They can sit peacefully in the grass, or run until their legs need rest. A world of new ideas and experiences can be found in the Berms and Sandpit.

OWIS Early Childhood students enjoy the berms and sandpit play area
OWIS Early Childhood students enjoy the berms and sandpit play area

Sensory Garden

A natural stone trail meanders through and between fragrant flower plantings. Bright coloured flowers of many different varieties are bursting forth, inviting creatures such as butterflies, hummingbirds and the like to stop and investigate. Our Early Childhood students enjoy the Sensory Garden on campus nearly as much as the butterflies and hummingbirds. Children experience the Sensory Garden with nearly all of their senses, the vibrant colours, sounds of nature, and delicate feel and fragrance of the flowers and related elements of the Garden. Nature surrounds them, in its ever-changing form, and they learn to appreciate changes to their environment, such as a flower bursting from its bud or a butterfly landing close by.

Tree Observatory Deck

Trees support many different living things, including human beings. Our source of clean air and eye-pleasing grandeur, trees offer a living history and teach us sage lessons. At OWIS, we encourage Secondary students to stimulate their natural curiosity by providing the opportunity for a close-up observation of our feature tree.

With a multi-tiered deck surrounding our feature tree, students are able to enjoy the peaceful shade and serene calm that the tree provides, interest themselves in many of the supported life forms (insects, and the like) and simply take in the beauty of this lovely arcade. The tree observatory deck is partially circled by shrubbery, which mirrors the beauty and wonder of the feature tree as it significantly enhances the natural setting.

Madison C., parent of an Early Childhood student, says, "I like that my child has a chance to play outside everyday and is exposed to a variety of subjects including art and music."
Benefits of Our Natural Classrooms
OWIS's natural classrooms encourage learning
OWIS's natural classrooms
encourage learning

Our nature classrooms are the ideal venues for learning and playing. Especially in the Early Childhood years, where it is so important that learning and play be interwoven, as the students progress to the primary years, outdoor learning has already been established and must be fostered. Secondary students are eager to take their rightful place as protectors of the environment. What better way to encourage them than incorporating outdoor activity via our nature Classrooms?

There are many benefits to out-of-the-classroom learning for teachers and students at OWIS Nanyang:

  • Hands-On Learning: The most effective method of learning is by doing. When OWIS students of all levels take part in experiential learning outdoors, they are simply engaged at a deeper level. From our Early Childhood students and their experiences with the planting garden, to our primary school’s enjoyment of all the wonder that the Miniature Forest holds, to our secondary students and the opportunity to take in the beauty and comforting presence of the Tree Deck, the natural world holds a fascination for all. They are able to be tactile, use all of their senses and form bonds with the environment. They can observe and experience nature without just seeing it in a book, through TV or online. They learn to be caring, gentle and adaptable.

  • Fun Gathering Place: There’s no doubt that our students have fun in our outdoor classrooms. For those in our Early Childhood programme, for whom play is the portal to lifelong learning, to our primary students, as well as our secondary students, our nature classrooms provide the ideal gathering places and backdrop for opportunities to connect and forge bonds throughout our diverse student population. Education should be fun, we should laugh and play and we should look back at our experiences with happy memories. This is why enjoyment is at the centre of our learning and we ensure we have the facilities to support this.

  • Nature Eases Stress: At One World International School, you will find nature as an essential theme throughout. We incorporate nature’s colours and design in our indoor as well as outdoor classrooms. The peaceful and serene atmosphere promoted both inside and outside aims to ease many of the everyday stresses. The experience of dealing with occasional stresses during their time in education will help give our students the skills and management tools to deal with any difficulties which they may come under in later life.

  • Nature’s Lessons are Endless: There is always something to be learned in our nature classrooms. From observing life forms supported by our Miniature Forest, students learn about the importance of the ecosystem. The Sensory Garden can teach many lessons, from the life cycle of plants and flowers to how certain types of creatures depend on these elements for their very lives. The biodiversity of the garden and the forest opens our students’ eyes to the wider world. The relationships between different plants and insect species help to teach the students about balance within nature. The Tree Deck affords students a place to pause and reflect, necessary to succeed in learning and in life. It opens their minds and makes them appreciate the world and opportunities around them. It links the natural and man-made world in complete harmony.

Not all students are “inside learners” and the nature classrooms allow those students to engage a bit of sensory relaxation. It allows them to step out of the type of environment which is so often seen as ‘normal’ within the world of education and gives them something so different and special. The chance to be at one with nature. To see all her changing colours and to learn from their surroundings. Simply put, the outdoor environment supports a host of learning opportunities for students of all levels. The beautiful and abundant world outside our doors holds many lessons, the most fundamental being to “Never Stop Learning”.

Please Contact Us today for more information, or to Book a Campus Tour. 

(Please note: All photos in this blog were taken pre-Covid.)

About Author

Michelle Dickinson

Head of School

Michelle has a BA (Hons) in History and South Asian Studies from North London University and PGCE from Middlesex University. She began teaching across all three primary key stages. Michelle began her school leadership career in 2002, when she became the Deputy Head Teacher of a large primary school in North London and spent four wonderful years there before relocating to India in 2005.

Her first international position was the Head of Primary of a local/international school in Bangalore in Southern India, where she introduced the Cambridge International Primary Programme and Checkpoint. Michelle then spent 6 years in China and 3 years in Ethiopia developing curriculum and assessment practices.

Michelle believes that children learn best when they are having fun and are engaged in practical, real life activities. While she recognises that outstanding academic achievement is the ultimate goal, she feels it is just as important to build self-esteem, instill character and encourage a global outlook in every child. Michelle believes that learning transcends the classroom environment and is passionate about educational visits and extra-curricular experiences.

Michelle is married with four children - Ana, Hindya, Bille and Markos. The Dickinson family have a sense of adventure and love of life. They particularly enjoy the outdoors, family holidays, making friends, good weather, camping and exploring and are delighted to be at OWIS.

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