Taking it Outside - Outdoor Learning

January 2021
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As more schools reap the benefits of integrating outdoor lessons into the curriculum, outdoor classrooms are a popular addition to school grounds. In fact, a growing body of research shows that learning and playing outdoors can improve cognitive function, reduce student and teacher stress all while improving results, creativity and social skills. Importantly, it can also foster a lifelong appreciation of the natural world.

Teachers love outdoor classrooms because they enable them to inject a healthy dose of fresh air, sunshine and variety into the school week, and allow them to explore innovative ways to teach the curriculum. What’s more, when teachers take learning outdoors, they report some powerful impacts. Children’s behaviour improves, whole classes are excited to learn and individuals who feel inhibited by a classroom-based curriculum thrive in an outdoor environment.

A recent global survey from Muddy Hands and Dirty faces...to Higher Grades and Happy Places (Cath Prisk and Dr Harry Cusworth, 2018) showed that 88% of children surveyed by their teachers are more engaged in learning when lessons are taken outdoors.

In addition, it found that the outdoors:
• Connects us to the places we live and the environments we will want to protect
• Improves concentration, eye-sight and ability to learn
• Results in better learning outcomes
• Creates healthier, more active children
• Boosts mental health

What makes an outdoor classroom great?

The key to a successful outdoor classroom is thinking about how the area will be used. The space, furniture and equipment must be:
• Visually appealing
• Functional
• Inclusive
• Safe
• Durable

Best practice outdoor classrooms are also:
Flexible – with a mix of equipment targeting different developmental benefits to enable teachers to be responsive to children’s learning needs.
Connected to nature – to allow children to actively engage with their natural environment.
Versatile – with a variety of spaces or ‘zones’ to enable children to engage as individuals, as well as small and large groups.
Geared toward sensory stimulation – with a mix of tactile surfaces and equipment (e.g. musical instrument, sand play).
Accessible – to allow easy access for children of different ages and abilities.
Weather-proof – with covered areas and shade structures to provide shelter from sun and rain.
Landscaped – incorporating gardens, herb and vegetable gardens or native plants, low-allergenic plants (to minimise risk) and trees for shade.
Eco-friendly – incorporating sustainably-sourced materials, reused or repurposed materials.
Technology-savvy – with e-classroom technology, WiFi to facilitate tablet-based learning, and/or apps that enhance the outdoor learning experience.

Multi-purpose spaces are perfectly suited to both structured and unstructured learning activities across the school curriculum – from science and the environment to maths, arts, music and PE. Fahr manufactures durable and versatile equipment and furniture that help support cognitive, social and physical developmental benefits.

a growing body of research shows that learning and playing outdoors can improve cognitive function, reduce student and teacher stress...

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