The Magic is in the Trees
Updated: Jul 13, 2019
As we founded BreakOut School, I researched the effects Nature has on children's learning capacity. I was astounded at the research out there! Over and over, the studies showed that children studying in a natural environment retained knowledge to a greater degree and even scored higher on standardized tests.
Then I remembered in my own life, I had an experience studying in a natural environment. Ricks College (now called BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho, conducted a bold outdoor learning program called Discovery that put college students in the Frank Church River of No Return wilderness for thirty days while they studies various courses.
The amazing thing was that I remembered so much of my studies while on Discovery. That was thirty years ago! I rarely remember any of my college courses except for small tidbits that were interesting, but the courses I took in Discovery stuck in my long term memory. Why?
Researchers haven't been able to pinpoint the "why" of improved memory while under a canopy of trees, but it probably has something to do with spatial memory: that part of the memory responsible for the recording of one's environment and spatial orientation. In less fancy words, how the squirrel remembers where he buried the nut!
When we are cooped up in monotone-walled cubes that shut out the direction of light from the sun, we effectively are shutting off much of our spatial memory. But out in Nature, we have a spatial relationship to everything around us (or if not, we become lost very quickly!) The trail, that stand of trees, those bushes, the pond, that stream over there, etc. We get a sense of placement in the world