In an age where technology is entwined in everyday life from a young age and children are spending less time playing outside, outdoor learning is becoming increasingly important.
When adults think back to their own happiest memories of childhood, they frequently recall the joys of playing outdoors and with opportunities to access the natural environment now diminishing for many children due to safety concerns and decreasing open space, schools are seen to have the greatest potential to allow children to experience the joys of the natural environment.
Outdoor learning offers many benefits to a child’s development. Research suggests that it can improve language and communication skills, motivation, independence, confidence, concentration and encourages skills such as problem solving and negotiating risk. It teaches children that learning occurs everywhere and isn’t just confined to a classroom with a book open and pen in hand.
Outdoor learning also offers children who may struggle in the classroom a different environment in which to learn, an environment in which they may flourish. A child may feel less constrained and more independent in their learning and discovering when outside. Taking the classroom outside gives the chance to observe the whole child in a different context, and provides the children with opportunities to offer ideas and questions naturally rather than responding to adult questions in a set environment.
When you think of an outdoor lesson P.E may be the first subject that springs to mind, however a variety of lessons can be transferred outside and many topics can be taught at the same time. Maths can be incorporated with Science, for example when learning about different species of tree children can also measure the size of the leaves. Taking classroom learning outside can help enrich a pupil’s educational experience by showing them real-life applications of what they are being taught in class.
Results of outdoor learning showed the children not only experienced an overall increase in their well-being and health but that they felt more connected to nature and wanted to protect their environment more than they had before, which in an increasingly environmentally conscience world is a positive thing.
Outdoor Classroom Day
As the case for outdoor learning rises there is even a global movement to inspire and celebrate outdoor learning and play.
Outdoor Classroom Day have two campaign days throughout the year, 21st May and 5th November, and act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day, both at school and beyond. On the day, thousands of schools around the world take lessons outdoors and prioritise playtime. In 2019, over three million children worldwide took part, with more than 690,000 of those being in the UK and Ireland.
They reinforce that outdoor learning has powerful impacts, with children’s behaviour improving and the whole class being excited to learn. They also have a whole range of resources to encourage people and schools to get involved, including plenty of outdoor lesson ideas, materials and articles.
Outdoor learning within the Oak-Tree Group
Our schools within the Oak-Tree Group love to take learning outside. Our Early Year pupils at Oaklands really enjoy their weekly lessons in the Wild Woods area, whilst pupils at Normanhurst regularly take their learning to Epping Forest. Coopersale Hall pupils recently enjoyed exploring their grounds to look for different flowers and plants during their Science lesson, and Braeside pupils enjoyed finding lots of different shapes in the playground. There is so much to learn from being outside and our pupils take a great deal of enjoyment from it!