In the bustling world of academia, the importance of mental wellbeing is gaining recognition, and at Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC), we’re not just nurturing academic excellence; we’re cultivating a supportive environment for mental health. Today, let’s explore some therapeutic benefits of working and studying outdoors, supported by official studies, and explore how BTC, with its ‘My BTC Advantage’, champions this holistic approach.
1. Nature’s Classroom: Studying Outdoors for Mental Wellness
Numerous studies throughout the years have highlighted the positive impact of outdoor learning on mental health. At BTC, horticulture programmes provide students with the unique advantage of studying in nature’s classroom. Engaging with plants, soil, and the changing seasons not only enhances academic understanding but also acts as a natural stress-reliever.
People learn in numerous different ways, and there’s no ‘correct’ way to learn. But, remarkably, it is often found that environment can make a huge difference to one’s learning experience. Throughout all of our courses, we try to offer holistic opportunities for learning; whether field trips, recreational adventures, or residentials in remarkable locations. This cannot be more obvious that with our multitude of land-based provisions, unparalleled in the region.
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that students who engage in outdoor learning experience reduced stress levels and increased concentration, contributing to overall improved mental wellbeing. Our selection of land-based courses implement this incredibly well, whilst developing the crucial skills required to follow a career in industries such as Agriculture and Animal Management.
2. Developing Empathy and Improving Mental Wellbeing with Animals
On the subject of animals, research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health highlights the stress-reducing effects of animal interactions. Engaging with animals, even for short durations, has been linked to lower cortisol levels, reduced heart rate, and overall stress mitigation.
Beyond this, Animal care programmes at BTC not only prepare students for careers in veterinary sciences and related fields but also instil values of empathy and compassion. Understanding the needs of animals, whether in a farm or a laboratory setting, nurtures a sense of responsibility and interconnectedness, further enhancing students’ emotional intelligence.
3. The Healing Touch of Green Spaces
BTC’s commitment to green spaces is more than just aesthetic. Research in horticultural therapy indicates that interacting with nature contributes to stress reduction, improved mood, and increased feelings of calmness. Our campuses are designed to incorporate greenery, providing students with tranquil spaces that promote mental wellness.
We are always considering this when expanding our campuses, with the Garden of Reflection recently being unveiled at the Bridgwater campus, the gorgeous Walled Gardens of Cannington available to all, with many students studying on its grounds, and our Taunton campus is right alongside Longmeadow Park and features wildlife ponds and an indoor green study space.
Each campus has a selection of spaces such as the above, as we understand the difference these can make to one’s learning and working experience, and overall wellness.
3. Career Satisfaction and Outdoor Work
Beyond the academic realm, the benefits of outdoor work extend to professional life. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture revealed that individuals engaged in outdoor work, particularly in horticulture and landscaping, reported higher job satisfaction and lower stress levels compared to those in indoor occupations.
Our land-based provisions exist to promote these incredible career paths, many of which are often hunting for the next generation of skilled workers. Many of our ex-students have progressed immediately into career paths in Arboriculture, Animal Management and Horticulture.
Highlighting horticulture, our programme has prepared students not only for successful careers but also for fulfilling ones where the joy of working with nature enhances their job satisfaction. In 2022, two former students won the Silver medal at Taunton Flower Show, one of which now owns her own flower business specialising in planning and design for wedding displays!
4. My BTC Advantage: Fostering Holistic Development
The My BTC Advantage is not just a tagline; it’s a commitment to nurturing holistic development. By integrating subjects like horticulture into our educational landscape, we are equipping students with skills that extend beyond academic knowledge. The advantage lies in cultivating an environment that supports mental wellbeing, fostering resilient, and well-rounded individuals ready to face the challenges in both academia and life.
In essence, My BTC Advantage is a promise — a promise that education is not a conveyor belt but a transformative journey. By incorporating our focus on mental wellness into every facet of the educational narrative, we are shaping individuals who are not just academically proficient but emotionally intelligent, socially adept, and prepared for the holistic demands of the future.
5. Creating a Blueprint for Wellbeing
BTC’s approach to learning is not just about sowing seeds; it’s about planting life-long roots of practicing and learning about our mental wellbeing. As students engage in outdoor activities, whether it’s tending to plants, designing landscapes, or conducting horticultural experiments, they are not merely participants; they are contributing to their own mental health journey, learning skills to deploy in the future, and becoming more resilient for it.
An incredible achievement to note; our Foundation Learners recently revamped many green spaces across campuses, growing flowers and vegetables in a year-long project. To commemorate Queen Elizabeth, they also planted dozens of trees – practices that will continue at BTC.
In conclusion, at BTC, we recognise that education goes beyond textbooks and exams. It’s about creating an environment that nurtures the mind, body, and soul. Through the therapeutic power of land-based education, we are not just educating; we are cultivating wellbeing and empowering our students to tackle their futures with confidence.