Ann Haydon

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Ann Haydon, Principal of Surbiton High School

talks about the importance of teaching kids

nature’s lessons in the amazing outdoors.


In an era of social media and technology, where more than half of the population live in cities, we are now spending an average of 90% of our time indoors. We need to redress this balance. I believe that children should spend as much time as possible outdoors – it’s an amazing place to be!


According to a recent survey for the TV Channel Eden, 64% of children today play outside less than once a week, 28% have not been on a country walk in the last year, 21% have never been to a farm and 20% have never once climbed a tree. The American writer Richard Louv, author of the bestseller Last Child in the Woods, has defined the phenomenon as “nature deficit disorder”.


At Surbiton High School, we are a digital school and we recognise the importance of technology in education but we also promote the values of spending time outside. We encourage our pupils to spend as much time as possible outside to explore, experiment, discover, be active and healthy, and to develop their physical capabilities.


Numerous studies have proven the value of nature and that spending time outside promotes creativity and imagination, builds confidence, provides different stimulation and makes children think. It activates more senses — you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. There is always more to learn about our planet and programmes such as Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth have brought the natural world into sharp focus for young people – seeing animals in their natural habitats is truly sensational.


Trips are an essential part of the curriculum at Surbiton and it is not so much what children know about nature that’s important, more so the feelings associated with experiencing first-hand what nature has to offer them. All children from Reception to Year 13 at Surbiton High will take part in trips – whether it is locally to a farm or on a sports tour to Malaysia, a Geography field trip to study rivers or a trip to Iceland to see natural wonders such as the Blue Lagoon or Aurora Borealis – all of these take our children outside and provide a real experience of the wider world.


It is important not just to spend time outside, but also outside of the classroom. We have introduced “Homework Consolidation Weeks” at Surbiton High – a time for students to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom, to visit galleries, museums, go to a concert, and appreciate the beauty of nature. We have a no holiday homework policy for pupils up to year 10, to allow children the time and freedom to experience the world outside, this too is an essential part of their education.


In short, nature broadens our horizons, makes us more creative, and more connected to the world around us. All children should spend as much time as possible outdoors, fully absorbed by natural surroundings.