Value of Nature Based Curriculum Inside and Outside the Classroom

Nature Deficit Disorder

What is it?

Nature deficit disorder is a phrase coined in 2005 by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Louv argues that “all of us, especially children, are spending more time indoors, which makes us feel alienated from nature and perhaps more vulnerable to negative moods or reduced attention span.”

What can we do about it?

Many people believe that by integrating nature based curriculum into the classroom they can help students become more active, environmentally aware, and have more hands-on, sensory learning experiences which often contribute to stronger overall acquisition of knowledge.







This article goes over the definition and meaning of nature deficit disorder. It also talks about the ways we can remedy this problem by bringing nature back into our lives.

This article talks about humanity's increasing disconnect with nature and our lack of feeling of responsibility for the environment. It talks about the issues arising and what we can do to be aware and knowledgeable about this disconnect.  

Best Practices/Examples

How does this actually look in schools?

-At Redtail Ridge Elementary School in Minnesota, environmental education is an integral part of everyday life, where nature is built into the classroom and seen as an extension of it. As the article states, "the staff and students at Redtail Ridge not only believe in the importance of strong environmental awareness and promoting stewardship, but also live it each and every day."


This article gives insight into Redtail Ridge Elementary School, where nature is an integral part of the curriculum throughout every class in the school. Redtail Ridge believes that through using nature as an extension of the classroom, students will gain increased focus and attention in the classroom itself.



-This article talks about a school in West Virginia that took up nature-based learning in their classrooms. Taking the classroom outdoors and "giving students hands-on learning opportunities and context to their academic work. The lead guide at the Montessori school said about this nature-based learning model: “With the integration of studies, learning is internalized, and students gain a better understanding of the things they are learning,” she says. “When this happens, you start to see an increase in creativity, problem-solving and thinking through things independently. Ultimately, a school has stronger, more motivated students.”


-This article talks about the possible benefits of connecting our children with nature and diversifying their outdoor experience. The info sheet aims to discuss these benefits and present examples of "simple ways to naturalize outdoor learning environments in childcare centers."

- A north Texas school recently started giving kindergarten and first graders 4 recesses a day.  Teachers saw major improvements in student focus and work ethic.




"Outdoor classrooms and other nature-based learning experiences are not only enjoyable for students but contribute to improved academic performances. A 2005 study by the American Institutes for Research found that students in outdoor science programs boosted their testing scores by 27 percent, with teachers reporting significant gains in self-esteem, conflict resolution, relationships with peers, problem-solving skills, motivation and positive behavior. These lessons seem to stick because they give context based on experience." (Zacks, 2017)

What if your school doesn't have access to nature?


If your school does not have access to nature, here are some things you can do with your students:

-Schedule an outdoor education visit at a local camp with entire grade level or single class. Trips like these can be anywhere from a day visit or a full week. Many camps also have scholarships that students can apply for if they do not have the money to pay for a school visit.

(example camp: Camp Campbell Gard in Hamilton, OH.

-Bring real-life context to what you are studying. If you want to look at man’s impact on the environment, step outside! Look for pollution and how its affecting the area. If you’re studying bugs, go outside and see what you can find! Studying positive and negative numbers? Look at the daily temperature! Use your environment to your advantage.

-Bring plants into the classroom to improve air quality and student performance.  Having plants in the classroom gives students a sense of responsibility and the reward of taking care of something.  Teaching children how to care for plants in the classroom will extend to them taking care of plants outside of the classroom.  


"There are many resources available to educators looking to incorporate environmental learning. School gardens and agriculture programs offer a natural foundation for taking learning outside. Programs offered through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and other federal, state and local agencies as well as nonprofit organizations can connect teachers with no-cost expertise, materials and lessons plans. Off-site opportunities are also available to give students a more in-depth, residential environmental experience." (Zacks, 2017)  


This link is to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). Here you can find resources for nature-based curriculum for your school.  


This link is to a website that is establishing partnerships to make outdoor learning programs more accessible. "I give parents and educators the tools they need to support their children's growth and development by getting them outdoors and connected to nature."  

Works Cited

Briggs, Helen. “All You Need to Know about Nature Deficit Disorder.” BBC News, BBC, 26 Nov. 2016,


“Nature-Based Curriculum a Hit with Students and Staff Alike.” Blog, 21 Apr. 2016,


Zacks, JoEllen. “A Case for Nature-Based Education.” West Virginia Executive Magazine, 14 Nov. 2017,


Gelsthorpe, Jack. "Disconnect from Nature and its Effect on Health and Well-Being". Natural History Museum. April 2017.


"Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature". The Natural Learning Initiative. January 2012.


West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection,  


Huvos, Emma. Emma Huvos,