Outdoor Classrooms: Are they the secret to better engagement and learning outcomes?

Outdoor Classrooms: Are they the secret to better engagement and learning outcomes?

As more and more schools seek to reap the benefits of integrating outdoor lessons into the curriculum, outdoor classrooms are becoming an increasingly popular addition to school grounds.

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.

In fact, 88% teachers surveyed in the global Outdoor Classroom Day 2017/18 Survey said children are more engaged in learning when taking lessons outdoors! And, according to the From muddy hand and dirty faces ... to higher grades and happy places report published in 2018, learning outdoors:

  • Connects us to the places we live and the environments we want to protect.
  • Results in better learning outcomes across the board.
  • Creates healthier, more active children.
  • Boosts mental health.

What makes an outdoor classroom great?

The key to a successful outdoor classroom design is thinking about how the area will be used.

There are a few must-haves. The space, equipment and furniture have to be:

  • Visually appealing
  • Functional
  • Inclusive
  • Safe, and
  • Durable

Best practice outdoor classrooms also have a few other things in common. They are:

  • Flexible – with a mix of equipment targeting different developmental benefits to enable educators 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 in 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, including children with mobility challenges.
  • Weather-proof – with covered areas and shade structures to provide shelter from sun and rain and water bubblers for hydration.
  • 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.

Bright ideas for outdoor classrooms

Multi-dimensional, multi-purpose spaces, outdoor classrooms are perfectly suited to both structured and unstructured learning activities across the curriculum – from science and the environment to maths, arts, music and PE.

The Outdoor Classroom Day website features a host of inspirational outdoor learning activities and lesson ideas.

Playground Centre’s new outdoor classrooms make it fast, easy and affordable to create an outdoor learning space at your school, preschool or early childhood centre. Contact the team at Playground Centre today or get a free quote.