We have long understood that well-designed outdoor play areas are vital. The few hours children spend outdoors each week builds social and cognitive skills which help them to thrive. No matter the space available, our team knows how to create a place where children can grow.
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Learning outdoors is All classrooms have four walls, but routinely spending hours confined between them does not create the best learning environment. The old saying ‘variety is the spice of life’ is important to bear in mind when providing children with a full education.
So does that mean we can forget classroom teaching and spend all day outdoors? Much as the children may love too, of course we cannot forget it – classroom teaching is an essential and practical method of educating children. But by varying the environment in which children learn you will enforce the lessons learnt and provide a number of additional benefits. We have included ten of them below, so read on.
Learning outdoors is more engaging
Keeping children on task in the classroom is always a challenge. Even more so when the weather’s bright and the subject demands a bit of brain power. But bringing lessons down to practical activities means those laborious subjects become enjoyable and engaging. Ironic as it sounds, learning outdoors actually improves a child’s concentration. When absorbed in an activity, their minds are entirely focused on what they are doing. Compare that with the constant distractions and fidgeting that occurs when children are sitting indoors for lengths of time.
Take maths outside for example. Have children estimate, then time how long it would take to run, hop and skip a certain distance. They can discuss the results and graph them back in the classroom. Simple activities like these allow children to develop a variety of skills, from analytical skills such as prediction to practical skills, such as measuring a distance. An Outdoor Classroom or a Canopy makes ideal sheltered space for these activities.
Make learning relevant
By taking learning outdoors, you will find opportunities to make concepts real and relevant by putting them into a more realistic context. Many concepts which seem too difficult to grasp in the classroom are a lot easier to understand when they’re set in context and can easily be shown by practical example. Children are more engaged and motivated. This puts them in the right mind frame to understand, learn and ‘receive’ more information.
Nurture creativity and imagination
Taking children beyond the classroom is like unclipping their wings. Suddenly their minds are free to explore. You often achieve some very creative results no matter what the subject. This freedom and allowance for thought also encourages a mind-set ready for absorbing information. For example, instead of learning about castles from the text book, you are able to ‘take’ your children to a real castle ruin, and have them act out roles. A dedicated role play or themed area provides the perfect facility for these lessons. You will be amazed at their imagination!
Develop learning though play and experimentation
We all know that children learn more when they are happy and engaged. And being happy and engaged involves the active use of imagination, so no wonder then that children learn so much through play. You can be sure the children who did the role play in the castle will remember heaps about what life was like for their characters. Experimenting is also a fantastic way to learn. Very young children learn a huge amount of scientific lessons, such as volume and textures, by simple sand and water play. Older children will enjoy becoming nature detectives and learning about nature and habitats.
Learning outdoors improves attendance
If you’re able to build outside learning into your curriculum, you’ll find that children are more motivated to turn up to school and arrive promptly for lessons. They know that something fun is about to happen! The prospect of learning outdoors is something that the class looks forward to, making them more compliable when the paper and textbook sessions do take place, knowing the risks that are at stake!
Outdoor learning reduces behaviour issues
Whilst learning beyond the classroom certainly involves strict behaviour monitoring, it can often mean a general improvement in behaviour – yet another consequence of children being happy, engaged and motivated. There are not many children who are likely to play up if the consequence is that the whole class has to go back indoors, or they don’t get to go out next time!
It develops interest in the environment and wider surroundings
Learning outside can give you a great opportunity to teach your pupils about the environment and see nature in your local area. This is an important part of developing them as responsible citizens that can be difficult to convey in the classroom. Often creating a mural scene on a blank wall can encourage children to imagine and play in real-life situations.
Learning outdoors exposes children to new opportunities
Learning outside the classroom doesn’t just mean wandering around the school grounds, though this is a great place to start. Often the benefit of school trips can be maximised by outdoor learning sessions around the subject. There is no end of places you can take the pupils that they might not get access to otherwise. Museums, galleries, zoos and farms can be of great interest, and somewhere where they can find out how things are made can provide learning experiences that won’t be forgotten.
An outdoor life is a healthy life
It’s the familiar cry, but it’s true! The outdoors provides a more active and healthy environment than sitting indoors. Even if you’re just going to work a few feet from the confines of your classroom, well directed outdoor learning opportunities can offer a great opportunity for fresh air and exercise. Even pupils who are not performers in PE can usually be tempted by a fun or imaginative learning game without the pressure of needing to ‘win’.
Learning outdoors is a limitless resource
One of the key benefits of learning outside is that you have the most amazingly well resourced stock cupboard! No matter how tight your school’s budget, as long as you have a good imagination you’ll be able to develop meaningful learning opportunities for your children that will stick with them.
If your school is considering a dedicated outdoor learning area, get in touch with our playground experts at Playcubed. We design and create outstanding learning areas for schools, and would love to make something special at yours.