Children love learning outdoors when the weather is warm. It gets them some well needed fresh air, stops them feeling cooped up and can be a real relief from the stifling heat of poorly ventilated classrooms. The problem for many schools, however, is that taking learning outdoors isn’t practical as they just don’t have the resources. Well, not anymore. Now it’s possible to resource an outdoor space so that it can be used for a wide range of subject areas. In this post, we’ll give you five tips on how to equip your outdoor classroom.
1. Make sure you have the right playground flooring
If children are going to work outdoors, it’s likely that, at some stage, they will need to write or draw. The most comfortable position for this without a chair and desk is to sit or lay on the floor. Hard playground surfaces, however, aren’t good for this. They are uncomfortable and often leave children’s uniforms covered in a layer of dust or dirt. Softer surfaces, like grass, are much more suitable.
If you have a grassy area, then this would be the ideal place to locate your outdoor classroom. If you don’t have natural grass, you should consider installing artificial grass. It’s just as comfortable and clean to sit on, with the added advantages that it doesn’t need maintaining or mowing like real grass and doesn’t get muddy. Alternatively, you can also use a rubber wetpour surface which has a cushioned or padded feel to it. Either of these surfaces would be perfect for children to sit on and lay on to write.
2. Get some outdoor work benches
If you need a few tables and chairs for children to sit at, it isn’t always practical to carry ones from the classroom out into the yard. Picnic tables are a much better solution. They can be left out in the playground and used during break times and lunchtimes, too.
Alternatively, you can purchase curriculum based picnic style tables, with interchangeable tops such as our handwriting practice tabletop and MFL practice tabletop. These allow pupils to work on specific curriculum areas whilst sat at the tables.
3. Get subject specific outdoor resources
Wouldn’t it be great if you could install wooden posts in your playground to which you could easily attach a range of interchangeable, subject specific, working panels? Especially if you could put them up when you need them and take them down when you were finished. Well, you can – and there is a multitude to choose from covering almost every curriculum area and every age from EYFS to KS4.
Interchangeable panels can be used by staff to write out learning objectives and instructions or used by pupils to write, draw, measure, calculate, note take and much more. When you’re finished, simply wipe clean, take down and put them away for safe storage.
ESP Play outdoor curriculum panels are much more than simple outdoor whiteboards. Most of them incorporate useful tools such as abacuses, coordinate grids, weather measurement instruments (for measuring rainfall and windspeed), timelines, moving clock faces, etc.
These boards are designed to be useful and hard wearing outdoor classroom resources that can save teachers time and engage children in their lessons. Currently, we provide outdoor panels for the following subject areas: art and design, design and technology, English, geography, history, maths, MFL, music, PE and science. We also provide cross-curricular panels too.
4. Put your pupils on a pedestal
Outdoor lessons are great for groupwork and one of the best ways to finish off is to get the children to show the rest of the class what they have achieved. The ideal place to do this is on a raised platform where they can be seen clearly by everyone.
You can install a raised stage area inexpensively in any playground and putting one in your outdoor classroom is an easy way to create a focal point where the teacher or groups of children can present to others.
Perfect for performances, presentations, speeches and showcasing work, we have a range of stages at ESP Play, including square, triangular, half stage and octagonal shaped stages.
5. Protect pupils from the sun
Whilst it is great to work outdoors, sometimes there is the risk of sunburn or sunstroke if it gets too hot. Providing an area where children can get some shade from direct sunlight whilst continuing with their lesson can be a useful addition to your outdoor classroom. It can also help if there’s an unexpected spot of rain.
Outdoor shading can be provided in three different way. The simplest form is a sail cover – a weatherproof canvas attached to the top of fixed poles. Alternatively, there is a range of pergolas available, including ones with built-in seats and decked flooring. Finally, you can install wooden structures, such as our large octagonal shelter, which comes with tiered seating, sides and a trellis.
All these shading products would be helpful not just for outdoor lessons but for use at break and lunchtimes. The large octagonal shelter can even be used to host some open-air performances.
Many schools are now developing outdoor classrooms as a way to enrich the curriculum and engage pupils in a wider range of activities. Here at ESP Play, we have been listening to what our customers have been saying and have responded by producing many of the resources these schools have been asking for. If you are considering creating your own outdoor classroom, we hope you’ll find these resources useful to you.