ICHK Hong Lok Yuen: Revolutionising outdoor learning
Promoted by ICHK Hong Lok Yuen

ICHK Hong Lok Yuen: Revolutionising outdoor learning

Spending time in nature is good for our minds and bodies. Many studies have shown this, as well as the stay-at-home orders during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before that, children were far too often sequestered indoors — with the most extreme cases leading to a nature-deficit disorder. It’s not a medical condition, but it’s a useful term to describe the human costs of alienation from nature, including the lack of use of senses, problems focusing, greater rates of physical and emotional illnesses, obesity, Vitamin D deficiency and many more.

A great example of the opposite — where children get to use all five senses, focus well, have great well-being and are physically healthy — can be found at ICHK Hong Lok Yuen. Located in a valley in an accessible part of the New Territories, this international kindergarten and primary school is exemplary in how it uses its green spacious surroundings so that children can learn happily and flourish

ICHK HLY Kindergarten and Primary School is a leader in outdoor learning — living up to its name. “Hong Lok Yuen” translates to “happy, healthy garden.” Here, children learn the importance of operation and communication in teamwork, perseverance and using their initiative in problem-solving. Teachers and staff maximise their school’s giant, one-of-a-kind natural playing field — giving students unrivalled opportunities for active play and sports and providing students with a playground, a back garden, play apparatus, a mini-forest, an outdoor forest classroom and a nature area called “The Woods.”

These are award-winning efforts. This year the school won the 2023 International Schools Award for Sustainability in recognition of its initiative in helping children from kindergarten and primary years to take ownership of the natural world and develop an understanding of the role they play in sustainability.

“When you’re outdoors, it can bring you a lot of confidence in completely new areas. Equally, it may be a space where you are experiencing and overcoming challenges you wouldn’t experience in a classroom,” says Derek Pinchbeck, Head of School. “There’s a lot of research in place related to well-being, that the amount of time children spend outdoors has a direct correlation to their sense of well-being and purpose.”

Learning outdoors contributes to ICHK HLY’s holistic approach to education. The school wants children to flourish academically, socially, emotionally and physically. Having real-world experiences, especially after the damaging effects of sheltering indoors for months on end due to COVID-19, is crucial to this.

“At our mini forest, children are helping the plants to grow. They’re learning about indigenous species, which they may have come across when they’re out and about. So this gives a context to it,” says Pinchbeck. “It gives an emotional reaction that makes children want to learn about and engage with nature. They can see it’s a real plant and not something that’s just theoretical. It lets them feel a natural engagement with the world around them.”

Happy faces abound in Hong Kong’s rich ecosystems.

Happy faces abound in Hong Kong’s rich ecosystems.
Source: ICHK Hong Lok Yuen

The outdoor activities here are expansive. Students are slacklining, fire lighting, climbing trees, and cultivating plants in the Miyawaki Forest and Organic Farm. The Kindergarten uses both the Primary outdoor spaces and its own outdoor gardens where children are free to play, dig, and grow their own herbs, vegetables, and flowers in the school garden, learning about sustainable living and developing an attitude of care and concern for the environment.

“My children who have been here have really flourished through being able to be outside. Learning what they would usually learn in a classroom but being in the great outdoors,” shares a parent, Danielle.

While located in a semi-rural area, ICHK HLY is only 35 minutes from Central Hong Kong and 15 minutes from the Mainland Border. This amazing location allows for frequent field trips where students can connect with a variety of academic disciplines, including geography, history, and the natural sciences. “They get to experience the rivers, mangroves — all the rich ecosystems we have around here in Hong Kong,” says Pinchbeck.

Though the school places a strong focus on outdoor learning, this is not a means for children to just burn off energy outside. Instead, this approach has a symbiotic relationship with the academic programmes. Learning is divided between indoors and outdoors. “We are not a school that focuses on just one area of a child’s development at the expense of the others. It’s about getting that balance right so that children can truly flourish. It’s all about making sure that we have that holistic view of education which is so important,” says Pinchbeck.

Ready to discover the unique learning experience that ICHK Hong Lok Yuen has to offer? Click here to find out more and to enroll your child today.

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